Should We Have a Four-Day Workweek? A New Pilot Program Says 'Yes'

Some companies are already adopting this schedule.

The forty-hour, five-day workweek has been the standard for as long as most of us can remember. But considering large corporations are giving their employees more flexibility with things such as hybrid work models, remote work, and unlimited vacation policies, is a four-day workweek the next big trend? According to a 2022 poll from FlexJobs, workers are certainly interested in having a shorter workweek. Sixty-six percent of the respondents said they would rather have a four-day workweek than a five-day workweek with a 20 percent bump in pay.

But does a four-day workweek even make sense? Does it truly improve productivity? The answer may surprise you.

Related:We Polled Our Readers About Work-Life Balance—and Nearly All of You Prefer Working from Home

<p>Pakin Songmor/Getty Images</p>

Pakin Songmor/Getty Images

Where Did the Five-Day Workweek Come From?

Way back in 1926, Henry Ford found that working more than 40 hours per week increased productivity with his employees. But then results started to dwindle and he ended up instating a forty-hour workweek instead. This model became popularized, and while it likely made sense nearly a century ago, it’s fair to say that corporate culture and technology have made many aspects of the five-day workweek obsolete.

The Four-Day Workweek Pilot Program

A recent pilot program of 60 companies and nearly 300 workers—conducted in the United Kingdom by the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global4 Day Week Campaign, and think-tank Autonomy—showed the four-day workweek may actually be more beneficial than the current five-day model for both employers and employees. For a period of six months, workers were paid the same amount as they were when they worked for five days, yet they only worked for four days. And instead of working longer hours on the four days, there was an actual reduction in the number of hours worked per week.

Related:What Is 'Quiet Quitting'—and Is It Really Just Work-Life Balance?

The Results

When the trial period ended, a whopping 91 percent of companies said they were planning to continue the four-day workweek. Four percent weren’t entirely sold on the shortened workweek but were leaning towards this policy. Four percent decided not to continue and went back to their previous five-day structure.

When it comes to revenue, nearly two dozen companies who participated in the trial saw revenue increase by an average of 1.4 percent. Additionally, workers were more likely to show up for work, and hiring increased. Sounds like a win for everyone involved.

This study also showed that a shortened workweek meant employees lived better lives overall and even had increased work satisfaction. Participants reported improved health and well-being in both physical and mental health. Time spent exercising increased, presumably because that extra day off means there is more time to work out. Rates of burnout, fatigue, and stress also declined. With statistics like this, who wouldn’t want to sign up for a four-day workweek?

What Participants Have to Say

Simon Ursell, managing director of Tyler Grange, an environmental consulting company that participated in the program, told NPR that the firm decided to invest in technology to avoid the “day-to-day rubbish” and some administrative tasks to shorten the workweek from four to five days. “If you give people an incentive to do something—like a really cool incentive, and it's a money-can't-buy incentive, giving them a whole day a week for the same pay to do what they want to do—that really focuses the mind,” he said.

In other words, cutting down on busy work and trusting employees to get more done in less time had better results for everyone.

More Companies Are Catching On

Dreaming of a four-day workweek? It may be time to get a new job. Fortunately, according to Flexjobs, companies are starting to catch on with Kickstarter, ThreadUp, Basecamp, and Merit America, among others, offering this benefit.

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