And now another bold approach to work has begun to pop-up in headlines: the four-day workweek.
The idea of a shortened week isn’t brand new, but today more companies — and even entire countries, from New Zealand to Spain — are experimenting with it. In fact, Japan’s government has officially recommended companies make the switch to a four-day model. Closer to home, Kickstarter is one of the first major U.S.-based companies to announce that it will adopt a four-day workweek next year.
Want to know why companies and countries are thinking of saying goodbye to a Monday-through-Friday schedule? Read on to learn how working reduced hours can benefit both employees and businesses.
Productivity Goes Up
It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s true: People are more productive during a four-day workweek even though they’re working fewer hours. One reason? Employees are more likely to handle their personal tasks on their days off rather than take time out during their workday to run errands or make appointments.
“For example, employees can take their kids to the dentist without worrying about getting behind at their job,” says J. Bruce Tracey, a professor of human resource management at Cornell University. “This takes the mental stress out of the daily routine and allows employees to be more focused and engaged, which leads to better output.”
Charlotte Lockhart, the CEO of the 4 Day Week Global — a nonprofit that champions the shortened workweek and aims to get companies to try it — says that businesses should see productivity go up by a minimum of 20%, though it’s usually higher than that. “You’re giving employees the ultimate benefit: time,” she says. “If you can do your job efficiently, you can go home.” (Want to support 4 Day Week Global? Sign their petition.)
Work-Life Balance Improves
“Employers need to remember that they are borrowing people from their lives,” Lockhart says. “Businesses don’t exist without their people, and employers need their people to feel fulfilled.”
A four-day workweek helps employees become fulfilled because they have the opportunity to spend more of their time the way they want to: with their kids, growing a garden, starting a new hobby, or even upskilling for their job. And when people can do the things they love more often, it’s no surprise that they’re happier (both in life and at work).
Employees Stay Longer — and Recruiting Opportunities Expand
Unlimited vacation, home office subsidies, and wellness perks — these days, employee benefits often go well beyond a basic healthcare plan. According to Tracey, offering a four-day workweek would give companies a competitive edge when it comes not only to retaining current employees, but also to recruiting new ones.
“Employers need to make sure they can compel employees to stay over the course of time,” Tracey says. “A four-day workweek is special, distinctive, and makes people get up in the morning excited to get to work.”
It’s Good for the Environment
There are two ways you can approach a four-day workweek: You can create a staggered schedule, in which different employees come in on different days of the week (for example, one group Monday – Thursday, another Tuesday – Friday) or you can have everyone come in the same four days. Either approach benefits the environment.
On a staggered scheduled, you have fewer people showing up to the office on any given day, so “you’re using less power,” Lockhart says. Both approaches reduce the need for commuting, which, when combined with keeping the lights off one day per week, can help lower carbon emissions, according to the May 2021 study “Stop the Clock: The Environmental Benefits of Shorter Working Week.”