If you’re like most employees and you live for three-day weekends, you probably don’t need much convincing when it comes to the benefits of a four-day workweek. Employers, on the other hand, may approach the idea of a truncated week with caution, concerned about decreased productivity. However, switching to a shorter week may benefit business owners just as much as workers.
The idea of the four-day workweek is not new. Some organizations in the United States have reduced hours during the summer to align schedules with vacations. Often these arrangements fall squarely in the employee benefit category, with workers using banked vacation and personal days to cover lost wages during these days off.
Shared benefits of a shortened workweek
However, recent studies have shown some serious benefits for both the employer and employee. One notable study from New Zealand involved testing a four-day work week. This experiment increased employees’ perception of work-life balance while reducing stress and improving efficiency.
How do fewer days translate into more productive work? Employees are motivated by the prospect of having an “extra” personal day for themselves. Participants involved in the studies reported greater productivity at work and reduced overall stress, both of which make employers happy. To better understand the benefits of fewer working hours, lets unpack the typical workweek and see how nine to five, Monday through Friday, may not be optimal.
Three-day weekends can foster greater work-life balance
Many factors influence productivity. Some employers may think that career progress and monetary goals are the prime motivators for employees, but many workers are more concerned with happiness and balance. Family stresses can eat into productivity. Spending more time with family can help employees attain joy in their personal lives.
When a worker’s home life is stable, and they have fewer personal stresses, they can focus on completing their work duties. A shortened week can take a few forms. One is extending daily hours to accommodate a 40-hour workweek in four days. While a 10-hour day at work may seem like a tough pill to swallow, many workers are happy to put in the extra time to earn a day off. Another popular four-day workweek scenario is to pay employees for a standard 40-hour week, even though they only work 32 hours. In this last scenario, as long as employees gets their jobs done, the employer might not be concerned about how many hours are logged.
Productivity initiatives with a shortened workweek
When employees have an extra personal day each week, they are incentivized to get work done more efficiently. If the workweek runs from Monday through Thursday, employees feel like the days breeze by, so there is less time for unproductive work. There are fewer time-wasting meetings because people have a limited amount of time to complete their tasks. Workers also have less of a need to socialize and engage in distractions because they have more opportunities for recreation and rest. Fewer workdays also help employees develop more productive methods. Again, the workload remains the same, and possibly increases in an efficiently shortened week, so workers will have to focus on task completion, not merely waiting for Friday to arrive.
A four-day workweek can be an investment in human capital
Human resources philosophies have evolved to view employees as assets. Unhappy workers are unproductive at best and flight risks at worst. Three-day weekends put smiles on employees’ faces, increase work output, and even result in healthier workers. This results in fewer sick days and an overall more positive outlook on work and life.
Unfortunately, the benefits of a four-day workweek do not always translate well in all workplaces. Some businesses do not have the luxury of shutting down for three days. While a larger business may be able to stagger employee schedules to provide full coverage, this might not always be possible. For those businesses that can alter schedules, it seems that a shortened workweek can dial up productivity while significantly reducing employee stress.