For the past few years, there’s been a ton of talk all around the world about the viability of a four-day workweek.
And it’s had a lot of people wondering if it’s inevitable or unrealistic, worthwhile or over-the-top.
But, by looking at the stats, Americans work significantly more than many other countries. And that’s driven a significant leap forward in the four-day workweek debate: a bill has been gaining traction in Congress that would encourage this new structure by requiring employers to pay overtime after 32 hours of labor per week.
So, we’ve compiled a high-level look at everything you need to know about the four-day workweek, how it would work, and whether it’s feasible.
The History of the 5-Day Workweek
Ever since 1926, when Henry Ford shut down his seven-day auto factories for two days every week, the five-day workweek has been the standard in North America.
But, as technology has evolved and made work more efficient, the argument in favor of a four-day workweek stems from the concept that more efficiency should be more leisure time for workers–not more work being crammed into an eight-hour workday.
The pandemic has also shown that technology allows people to get more work done in less time.
And we haven’t seen a corresponding reduction in work hours for nearly 100 years.
Four-Day Workweek Pilot Projects
Debating the viability of a four-day workweek doesn’t need to be speculative. In addition to Congress considering a bill to support it, the concept has also been tested in a number of countries around the world, including:
- New Zealand
Even some states in the U.S. have tried it out.
Four-Day Workweek Successes
By and large, the results of the “pilot projects” conducted around the world have been positive, both for businesses and workers. Overarchingly, trials found that:
- Productivity remained level or even improved, in the majority of workplaces
- Workers were less stressed and burnout levels dropped
- Health and work-life balance improved
- People had more time to spend with their families, do hobbies, and do chores
Ultimately, the concept of a four-day workweek could:
- Create better employee engagement
- Reduce turnover costs
- Supercharge productivity and profitability in turn
- Support a smaller carbon footprint for organizations and individual workers
How Would a Four-Day Workweek Actually Look?
One of the big questions when it comes to a four-day workweek is how it would actually look from a logistical perspective. And there are a number of possibilities:
- Overtime: Like the bill currently in Congress, it could include stipulating organizations pay overtime (time and a half) after 32 hours of labor
- Longer Workdays: People could possibly need to work their 40 hours per week but spread them out over four days rather than five, resulting in four 10-hour days rather than five 8-hour days
- Fewer Hours: Rather than compressing the standard workweek, it could simply involve a reduction of the working hours each week with the implementation of a three-day weekend
The Challenges of a Four-Day Workweek
While the theory sounds promising, there are still prospective challenges presented by the four-day workweek.
- Wages: For shrewd employers, giving the same salary for fewer hours doesn’t make a lot of sense financially
- Added Pressure: Reduced hours could create additional pressure on employees to get their workload finished in a shorter timeframe
- Reduced Workloads: Employers may struggle with the concept of having to reduce the amount of output they can expect from their staff each week
- Staffing: Depending on the workplace, employers may have a hard time juggling who gets to take which days off–Mondays and Fridays could be hotly contested days, or a mid-week break may present the same challenge
- Varying Business Models: Not all business models are structured for a four-day workweek, including those that require a 24/7 presence
- Customer Satisfaction: If customers are only to able to reach your business 57% of the time, it may have implications on their satisfaction
However you look at it, there are a ton of pros and a handful of potential cons that could come with a four-day workweek.
And ultimately, it’s all going to come down to what makes the most sense for your business.
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