Can We Make the Four-Day Workweek Happen For Everyone?

By now, you’ve probably read more than a few articles and thought-pieces on the idea of the four-day workweek. In case you missed it, employees at Microsoft Japan worked four days a week all summer – getting three-day weekends and a normal five-day paycheck. The result wasn’t just happier employees, but also a productivity boost of 40%. This information essentially took the career world by storm, causing several businesses to test out this concept to similar results.

Beyond productivity, there were some even better outcomes, as meetings were cut from 60 minutes to 30, attendance at these meetings was limited to five employees, electricity use fell 23%, and printing dropped by 60%. Less pointless meetings, more focused attendance on who needs to be in these meetings, instead of meetings for the sake of meetings, and less energy and waste?

WOW right? I don’t know about you, but I’m already planning what to do with my extra day: trips, sleep, books, more plant shopping. One extra day might stave off the Sunday Scaries, that anxiety that kicks in Sunday midday that you’ve wasted the weekend catching up on life and adult things – or just sitting in your PJs on the couch watching Disney Plus. Hold up though: like many things in the workplace, this idea isn’t for everyone.

What might this look like in practice? Well, for starters, you’re not working 8-hour days – you’re still logging 40 hours a week, only in 10-hour days. This can be good and bad: yes, you’re opening up a full day for folks to have personal time, reduce stress, do their work smarter and ultimately, faster – you’re also creating a bit of a problem for working parents who live by daycare hours, or businesses that might need customer support five days a week.

Also, ten hours of work is A LOT of work hours in a row – some folks might not be able to concentrate that long. If you start work at 6 am, you’d be done by 5 pm with an hour lunch, but if you start at the normal 9 am, you’re in the office until 8 pm – what happens to home tasks that have previously been spread out during the week? Do they all get done on that extra day off, essentially negating that day for “stress relief” – because I don’t know about you, but doing all your adulting on one day seems pretty stressful to me?

But are four-day workweeks the next big thing in a long line of employee “perks”? Employers are pulling out all the stops in attracting talent in the competitive job market – from the shortened week to pet insurance, incentives are getting greater and grander, but is it all for nothing when it’s shown most people simply want a flexible work environment?

Consider the opportunity to work four days a week versus the idea of working remotely – or even the option of remote work. Would you rather pull four 10-hour days in a row, getting either Monday or Friday off in addition to your weekend, or have the opportunity to work remotely when you would like, logging in a half-day at home once in a while?

The answer isn’t so simple: while studies show that the four-day workweek increases productivity at many workplaces, so does the option of remote work and a flexible schedule. The truth is, nothing is going to be the perfect fit for everyone. Some employees will find productivity in four days, others need the constrictions of five, and some need the ability to work on the road or at home with their families without being penalized or chided for the flexibility.

Before you kick the idea off in your workplace – or kick it to the curb – spend some time talking to your employees and employer about what folks need. Don’t jump on a trend to be trendy – meet the needs of the people that matter and watch your productivity soar.


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