What is the 4-day week and why is it so popular?

Everyone is talking about the 4-day week and more companies are converting every day. What actually is the 4-day week and what impact could this have on businesses?

4-day week stats are flying around everywhere on the internet, employers and employees alike can’t seem to get enough.

Now, a recent study in the UK including 61 companies and 2,900 workers showed 92% of the organisations wanted to continue their 4-day week.  

But what does the 4-day week actually entail and why is it becoming so popular?

Read on and we’ll cover:

  • What exactly is a 4-day week?  
  • How did it become so popular?
  • What are the pros and cons?

What is the 4-day week?

The idea behind the 4-day week is exactly like it sounds: rather than working the traditional 5 days a week, a work week will only be 4 days, but with the same pay and benefits. With longer weekends, 4-day Week Global believes both employees and employers will benefit through:  

📈 Boosted productivity

⭐️ Increased talent retention  

🌎 Reduced climate impact

💛 Improved well-being for employees

Companies like Azavea and Unity have converted to this way of working, as well as Wonde who are currently hiring. On Jobs For Good we have companies such as Driftime Media and Ecosia that offer 4-day work weeks. They consistently get a higher rate of applications than those not offering a short work week.

How did the 4-day week become so popular?

  • The 4-day week first emerged in 2017 thanks to Andrew Barnes and Charlotte Lockart. They founded 4-day Week Global, a non-profit community for individuals who believe in the idea.  
  • In 2018, they launched the program and become known worldwide.  
  • The idea is slowly becoming part of our new work-balanced world through trials that showcase outstanding results and overjoyed workers.  
  • As a result of the covid pandemic, more people started considering their work-life balance and become more positive towards remote work.
  • In fact, companies are at risk of losing 70% of their candidates by not proposing flexible working. This opened new possibilities and gave the 4-day week a renewal.  

Having completed multiple successful trials across the world, including countries such as the UK, Japan, USA and Sweden, it’s likely this is not the last we’ve seen of the 4-day week.

However, is a 4-day work week only positive? What could the impact be for businesses establishing a shorter workweek around the world?

What are the benefits of a 4-day week?

There are plenty of benefits that come along with introducing a 4-day week, according to reports.  

📈 Productivity increase

  • 55% of UK workers reported an increase in their productivity at work. With longer weekends, people come back to work with more energy and aware that they have a “shorter” week ahead which made them a lot more effective.
  • 54% said reported a reduction of negative emotions in the workplace and improved teamwork amongst colleagues. Workers come into the office happier and keener to socialise, happier workers lead to better results for the company and an increase in revenue.  

As a matter of fact, a global trial, involving 91 companies, saw an increase of 35% in revenue.  

⭐️ Easier to attract and retain new talent

Offering a 4-day week is a unique way to standout to candidates.  

  • Employees desire an improved work-life balance in 2023 and 3 out of 4 workers claimed they would consider leaving their current job for an offer that included a 4-day work week.  

During the UK trial, companies claimed that their job applications went up 88%! Our blog post on how to create a great candidate experience dig deeper into how to attract workers that align with your company's passion.  

🌎 Climate benefits

By working one day less a week there are multiple factors that have a positive impact on the environment.  

  1. One less travel day decreases carbon emissions. Commuting time falls by an average of half an hour each week and could save 12,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.  
  1. As the offices are closed, companies will have a reduction in energy use which is good for both the planet and the company’s economy. In the Microsoft Japan 4-day week trial their electricity cost fell by 23%, this frees up money that the business can use elsewhere whilst decreasing their emissions.  

💛 Reduced levels of stress

Workers can get more rest and take time to care for their well-being, both mentally and physically.  

In the UK trial, 71% employees were found to have reduced levels of burnout and 43% felt an improvement in their mental health.  

  • With employees feeling good at work, they will perform better and more importantly their sick days are likely to reduce.  
  • Workers will want to stay at their current company if they feel better and will become more passionate about their work tasks. The global trial saw a absenteeism decrease with sick days and resignations falling compared to the same period last year.  

What are the negative impacts of a shorter work week?

However, there are certain aspect of the 4-day week that could prove difficult.

👎 Customers not satisfied

Certain companies won’t be able to commit to a 4-day week due to their unavailability to customers. Customer support teams for instances will need to think about how this is communicated to customers when they need urgent help.  

  • In 2007 the state of Utah in the US reformed the work week with extended hour Monday-Thursday which mean that they could have Fridays off entirely. However, this caused a problem amongst the community as customers complained that the companies couldn’t be reached on those days and were unable to contact them for help or other factors before the weekend.  

🔉 The Hawthorne effect

The Hawthorne effect is the principle that when people are exposed to a new system, they assume it to be good just because it’s new. There is the possibility that the positive feedback and results have only come since the 4-day work week because it is a novelty.

  • 100 years ago, we went from working 6 days a week to 5 and I would imagine they saw an increase in certain matters as well. However, as time passes and working 4 days a week becomes the new norm people might start seeing it as an entitlement rather than a privilege.  
  • Only 56% of workers voted to continue with the 4-day week after a 6-month trial period was up.  

A way around this could perhaps be rethinking the way we approach work and making it a bit more fluid. By making working hours adaptable to certain individuals, we will see an increase in productivity and all positive matters as well.  

What do you think of the 4-day work week, and do you see it becoming the new normal? Let us know on LinkedIn and Twitter.