New year, new workweek? The four-day workweek is gaining traction in career conversations, but whether a real movement is actually taking place in the workforce seems too soon to say.
In the career space, outlets from The New York Times to Forbes have written about the four-day workweek in the last six months. In that period of time, some companies — like Panasonic, Shake Shack, Kickstarter and Bolt — announced their four-day workweek or their plans to move forward with one.
It’s not just that more companies have taken the leap; these four-day workweek conversations also stem from the ever-prevalent issues of burnout and employee dissatisfaction. According to a 2021 Indeed survey, half of workers feel burnt out, and two-thirds of them say this burnout has gotten worse during the pandemic. In a time when job seekers are feeling pandemic and work fatigue more than ever, a company that offers a four-day workweek can seem like a dream come true.
But is the four-day workweek really a soon-to-be-reality? For those who support the four-day workweek, unfortunately, the media buzz doesn’t reflect a seismic rush to join the shortened workweek masses.
Why are most companies hesitant to accept the four-day workweek?
They’re worried about how money factors in.
For salaried employees, a four-day workweek ideally means no pay cut, just fewer hours. For companies who have hourly employees, a four-day workweek means they might miss out if hours are cut.
How easy the four-day workweek is to adopt depends on the industry, too. In industries with front-line workers that require workers seven days a week, or those with clients who expect at least five-day availability, four-day weeks mean that they’ll need to hire more employees to pick up the new open shifts.
It’s a big shift from what we’ve always done.
Even without the logistics of salary and staffing, some companies are hesitant to make the leap because it can seem like a big change to how things have always been done. Yet before the pandemic, remote work was available, but far from the widespread practice it is now for many companies. Companies that now offer fully remote options may never have dreamed of offering the option just two years ago.
The four-day workweek poses similar challenges and changes. There’ll need to be new workflows and schedules to adjust. Is it a lot of work? Potentially. But is it impossible? No.
In fact, the work involved in making a four-day workweek work seems worth it — for both employees and their employers.
What are the benefits of a four-day workweek?
The four-day workweek isn’t as elusive and mysterious as we think. In fact, there’s evidence from other countries, and even some shorter experiments in the U.S., that the four-day workweek is beneficial.
From 2015 to 2019, 1% of Iceland’s population participated in a four-day workweek experiment — and found successful results across industries.
“Participating workers took on fewer hours and enjoyed greater well-being, improved work-life balance and a better cooperative spirit in the workplace — all while maintaining existing standards of performance and productivity,” a recent research report on the experiment reads.
In a 2018 study of workers in New Zealand, workers with a four-day workweek were 20% more productive, all while feeling more engaged and less stressed at work.
Outside of work, those with four-day workweeks reported enjoying more time resting, spending time on hobbies or getting more time with their families — which was especially helpful for working parents and caregivers.
So when does the four-day workweek — with hopefully more productivity and less stress — become a reality? There’s hope in the media buzz and the fact that major companies are publically announcing their shorter workweek plans with a lot of positive feedback. Yet whether four-day workweeks will be more commonplace, and not a rarity, is too soon to tell; the movement is there, but it’s not fast and furious just yet.
Who knows what the next five or ten years will bring? Even two years ago at the beginning of 2020, over 20% of companies having remote options would have seemed impossible. We shouldn’t need to wait for a global crisis to make change in the workforce, especially when the benefits to so many people are clear. Here’s hoping shorter workweeks come our way soon.
This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Zoe Kaplan is a Staff Writer & Content Strategist at Fairygodboss.