Back when the industrial revolution first started Sunday was the only day off, given over to worship and contemplation. It wasn’t until 1908 that companies first began enacting a five-day work week, and only the great depression made it the standard.
Now decades later we are finally contemplating turning another workday into an even longer weekend, in fact it has been trialled in a number of places around the world. The results have been an unexpected phenomenon. Here is why the four-day work week is getting closer to reality.
The four-day work week has been in the news a lot recently with a number of significant studies and trials coming out in favour of the arrangement. While many would assume that workers are thrilled with four-day weeks, but that bosses are finding it hinders business, the results do not back this up. Repeatedly, these studies are coming out in support of the four-day work week with the benefits simply racking up. Here are the reasons why it just might work:
Employees want it
In terms of work schedules, employees are increasingly seeking flexibility, with a four-day workweek emerging as their top preference, according to a recent survey of American employees conducted by Bankrate. The survey revealed that a significant majority of full-time workers and job seekers, a staggering 81%, express strong support for a four-day workweek over the conventional five-day arrangement.
What’s more, an impressive 89% of these respondents indicated their willingness to make sacrifices in order to enjoy a four-day workweek. Among these concessions, a noteworthy 54% are open to working longer hours, while a substantial 37% are even willing to explore career changes or transition to different industries. Additionally, a considerable 27% are open to increasing their in-person office presence or working entirely on-site.
Many assumed that a four-day work week would hamper productivity, but a recent study in the UK that included 61 companies and more than 3000 workers found exactly the opposite. The study, which followed the companies and their workers through a six-month test of a 32-hour, four-day week, with no loss of pay for employees was the largest of its kind, making its results extremely impactful. Perhaps more impressive though, is that after the study was over, 56 of the 61 companies that were involved decided to continue with the shorter week indefinitely, and two more said they were voluntarily extending the trial.
Among the benefits reported by companies were an increase in revenue over the same period in previous years, as well as a sharp decline in resignations. One company reported a productivity increase of 22%, a lower carbon footprint as well as an increase of 88% in job applications, and a 66% decrease in absenteeism.
The results back up those achieved by a smaller pilot program that covered another 30 companies and 1000 employees.
Employees are happier
As for employees, well they were almost unanimously happy. Participation in the above trial led to a significant decrease in people saying they lacked sufficient time during the week to attend to their responsibilities towards children, grandchildren, or elderly family members.
Additionally, they reported feeling reduced work stress as well as better mental health, more time for exercise, better sleep and generally less negativity. 55% reported an increased ability to work. The results also suggest that the shortened workweek could lead to better gender parity as the time men reported spending with their children increased nearly double that reported by women. So impactful were these benefits that 15% of employees said there was literally no amount of money that could make them go back to 5 day working weeks.
If your company chooses to adjust your working hours to fit in with the four-day work week, there are numerous ways to do it. Do you give extra days off to make up for the shorter week, work with Fridays or Mondays off, or allow employees to simply work fewer daily hours? The various options will come with their own unique financial considerations, and you should speak to your accountant to make sure you make the most of the new situation.