Working 9-to-5, five days a week has become the norm for many American workers, but is this model becoming outdated? With many people now working remotely and flexible hours becoming more acceptable, it’s possible that some employers may consider shifting to a four-day workweek. Some already have — including Amazon, which launched a part-time tech team that works Monday through Thursday.
Although moving to a four-day workweek could take some adjustment, the shift could have some major benefits for both employees and employers. I spoke to executives and entrepreneurs to find out their take on the shortened workweek and the advantages that would come along with it. Is this a shift more companies should consider?
It’s Better for Employees’ Mental Health
“Given the additional stressors of working from home during a pandemic, switching to a four-day workweek can greatly reduce anxiety and improve employee well-being,” said Liz Fosslien, head of content at Humu. “Having the extra time to take care of loved ones, run errands or even catch up on email can prevent teams from feeling overwhelmed, leading to higher performance and lower absenteeism.”
Fosslien is speaking from experience: “At Humu, we’ve moved to a four-day workweek every other week and have seen morale improve with no dip in productivity.”
Executive coach Heather Monahan also emphasized how working fewer days can be helpful to employees, especially those who are working from home and juggling work with child care.
“What the four-day workweek will allow for is time for employees to take care of themselves, to disconnect and work out or meditate or even clean their home and spend time helping their children organize their homework,” she said. “There are so many more demands on working parents right now that not offering some type of solution is a complete disconnect from reality. Employees will be more engaged and productive when their needs are met and their children are thriving.”
It’s Better for Employees’ Physical Health as Well
It’s not just mental health that can benefit from working less — it can boost physical health too.
“A pilot study conducted on nurses in Sweden between 2015 and 2017 found that working for eight fewer hours per week resulted in fewer average sick days logged per year,” said Liam Hunt, financial writer at Gold IRA Guide.
It Increases Employee Productivity
Both Fosslien and Monahan touched on the fact that when employees are able to have extra time to take care of themselves and their loved ones, they are also more productive during the time that they are working. Nate Nead, principal at DEV.co, has seen this to be true among his own employees.
“We have several employees that only work three or four days a week. When they work, they work hard,” he said. “The work they produce during those limited hours is far superior.”
Jeff Bettinger, chief human resources officer at Nu Skin, has also given his employees the option to work four days a week.
“By letting the employees decide, we have found that our employees are more engaged with their work and the company,” he said.
It Allows Employers and Executives To Have More Flexibility as Well
“As an employer, I have enjoyed using these swing workers for extended leave myself, allowing them to fill in for me on days when they are working and I may want to take some time away,” Nead said.
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It’s Better for the Environment
A four-day workweek won’t only benefit individuals, but also the planet.
“The less workers are required to commute into an office, the less of an overall impact we have on the environment via pollution and people on the road,” Nead said.
Megan Morton, head of product design at Calendar, also noted that closing offices for an additional day every week would decrease electricity consumption.
“In every way, a shorter workweek could shrink our carbon footprint,” she said.
It Could Benefit the Travel Industry
Longer weekends could encourage workers to travel more often.
“Having a four-day workweek is a good way to stimulate domestic travel again and help businesses that have suffered,” said Renee Johnson, editor in chief at The Tech Report. “More people might be inclined to do quick getaways.”
It Could Boost Other Sectors of the Economy as Well
“The extra time employees and employers have may translate into more meals out or shopping trips, which helps the economy,” said serial entrepreneur John Rampton.
It Serves as a Reminder to Employees to Actually Take a Break
“During the shelter-in-place order, I saw everyone working more than they ever did, which is not healthy or productive,” said professional keynote speaker John Hall. “Moving to a four-day workweek would be a positive way to remind everyone that we don?t need to keep working as a solution for being stuck indoors. In moving to a shorter week, company leadership should help ?retrain? their workers that it is OK to work less.?
It Makes It Easier To Achieve Work-Life Balance
?A four-day workweek encourages the balance that everyone keeps talking about as the key to physical and mental health,” said Chalmers Brown, CTO at Due. “Many people spend their weekends trying to catch up on what they didn?t get done during the week. Adding an extra day to the weekend might give them an actual day or two off from everything.?
Jayson Demers, founder and CEO of EmailAnalytics, agrees.
“It enables people to achieve a richer work-life balance,” he said. “It means one less day on the road commuting, one additional day for family vacations, and more flexibility for scheduling dental appointments and attending your kids’ school activities.?
It Gives Employees Time To Pursue Other Interests
?A four-day workweek can leave more time for hobbies and creative activities that help re-energize everyone for the next workweek,” said Steve Gickling, founder of ETLrobot. “It?s amazing what more personal time and rest can do for the mind in terms of motivation and productivity.?
It Helps Make the Workplace More Equitable
“Transitioning to a four-day workweek helps create a more equal workplace for men and women,” Hunt said. “Rising childcare costs is one of the most commonly cited barriers to entering the workforce full-time. Of those who report not working due to childcare responsibilities, nearly 90% are women.”
“Eliminating an additional workday would allow workers to spend more time with their children and would lower the cost of childcare from five days per week to four,” he continued. “Improving the affordability of childcare would allow more women to enter the workforce full-time, while also providing them with more leisure time with their families.”