Introducing a four-day work week appears to be an ideal formula. It aims to increase productivity and reduce costs while retaining a highly engaged workforce. In theory, it sounds fine, resulting in more profit for less stress.
As with any innovative scheme, there are some drawbacks. The idea has advanced sufficiently for experimental trials and in-depth studies to have already taken place. The results are fascinating, but are they positive enough to convince business managers and employees that four work days are better than five? HR Suite, HR consultants in Ireland explain the pros and cons of working a 4-day week as opposed to a 5-day week.
The main concern of business owners is increasing profit through higher rates of productivity. Traditionally, working more days not less was seen as the answer. In 1026 Henry T. Ford proved business expansion was possible with a shorter five-day work week.
A recent report in the Guardian newspaper highlighted productivity and a four-day work week are compatible. It stated that an experimental run in a New Zealand company found productivity increased by 20%.
The research was carried out jointly by Boston College, Cambridge University and University College Dublin. Their study concentrated on the impact a four-day work week might have on profit. The businesses involved reported an increase in revenue of around 38%.
Managers decided the improvement was largely due to higher employee engagement. Many also believed that the flexibility of a four-day week made it 65% easier to recruit new employees. The conclusion was a positive endorsement of a four-day work week.
Higher employee engagement
Analysis of the four-day work week discovered employees are less likely to suffer burnout. A Gallup survey of 7,500 employees working five days found that 23% reported burnout, and 13% felt their competence at work suffered.
By comparison, employees involved in the New Zealand experiment, felt their work-life balance had dramatically improved. 78% felt more content through an extra day of leisure. When working five days, only 54% thought their engagement at work was satisfactory.
A Forbes article commented on working excessive hours. The World Health Organization found that a long work week of 55 hours instead of 35 resulted in poor health. Employees were 35% more likely to suffer stress-related illnesses such as strokes and heart disease.
Another major concern in the article was the American tendency to ignore vacations. The Center for Economic and Policy Research found that 26% of US workers never take their vacations. A four-day work week could provide them with a much-needed increase in leisure time.
Closing a business for three days each week instead of two may help reduce overheads. One-fifth less fuel is required for heating, air conditioning and lighting. Large companies could save money by providing fewer services, such as on-site cafeterias and maintenance. Employees often find their salaries have increased value as their travel expenses are reduced by 20%.
It’s well known that new businesses often find it difficult to establish themselves. Start-ups usually rely on lengthy work weeks simply to meet their costs. What if a four-day work week became a standard procedure?
Some new companies may find their overheads of operating premises for four days instead of five untenable. Property rents and taxes are usually calculated by weeks or months not days.
More hours per shift
Business managers faced with economic and productivity pressures are more inclined to restructure the work week instead of closing for an extra day. In this instance working a four-day week could be the exact equivalent of a five-day week.
Work hours would simply be redistributed. The result could be employees working much longer shifts on each of the four days. Stress levels and burnout could be the same or even higher than when working five days.
On average, anyone working five days each week is often entitled to around 28 days of vacation, whereas a four-day work week usually has only 22 days for vacation. Workers may find they have longer weekends, but less time for extended breaks.
A four-day work week has advantages and disadvantages. Businesses will inevitably try to find a balance that doesn’t harm their profits. Employees might enjoy more leisure time, but their hours on each of the four days could increase.
An alternative could be a reduction in salary to compensate. Vacations could also be reduced. Working less has many health benefits, helping to improve employees’ quality of life. There is a positive outlook for increased productivity and profit.
A CNN report on global trials of the four-day work week involved 27 companies based in America and Ireland. 90% of them much preferred the new system and the benefits it provided.
The success of the four-day work week largely depends on the circumstances of individual businesses and their capacity to adapt.