Exploring the Four-Day Workweek

Is the four-day workweek truly a trend to watch? Throughout different parts of the world, the four-day workweek is gaining momentum.

Businesses that choose to cut the workweek down, trim hours without cutting health coverage, or offer other flex scheduling perks, cite a number of benefits for their employees, including:

  • Better all-around health.
  • Less stress and burnout.
  • More motivation.
  • Improved performance and productivity.

Why adopt a four-day workweek?

The majority of companies want to offer a better work-life balance for their employees. Research from FlexJobs.com, an employee job-search site, shows that companies across industries are exploring four-day workweeks, including IT, medical and health, education, accounting, and recruitment –to name a few.

With the four-day workweek in play, companies can set schedules in a nimble, responsive fashion, and staff in a way that follows shifting demands of different projects, or even seasons.

Employee-driven data backs up the trend.

A recent survey by The Workforce Institute, which included 3,000 employees, highlights something that many companies have suspected for years:

  • More than three-quarters of employees say they could complete their duties in seven hours if they had to, instead of eight or nine.
  • Nearly half say they could get their work done in five hours.

If the numbers are true, then why do companies still bother with traditional work weeks?

In some cases, it’s a matter of not wanting to change, or not knowing how to change. In other cases, companies look for different ways to boost productivity. This might include letting employees work remotely once a week, as long as they maintain the five-day status quo. 

Even if the four-day workweek sounds like a great idea, gathering data, and exploring options are always good ideas before launching any change. We’ll delve deeper into these topics below, and offer a few other concepts to consider before you dive into the four-day workweek waters.


Flex scheduling and remote work options can be powerful recruiting and retention tools in today’s job market. In our report, “Matching Your Recruiting Efforts with the Candidate’s Experience,” we offer tips to help match up your recruiting messages with your workplace culture.

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Will alternative scheduling work at your company?

Has your business considered a four-day workweek, or other flex scheduling options? How about “work from home” Thursdays, or a part-time/full-time hybrid where workers toggle their schedules throughout the month?

During a short week, some workers will naturally be more efficient because they know they have less time to get their work done. Others will struggle, and wind up coming in on the new day-off to catch up.

Before you advocate for redefining the workweek at your place of business, remember to gather data, and keep an open mind toward other approaches:

Your data matters. Gather it wisely.  

Are your workers always operating as efficiently as possible during the 40-hour workweek? Returning to SHRM again, evidence suggests that some U.S. employees spend less than 40% of their time at work actually doing their jobs. Is this true at your workplace?  

Before you consider making wholesale changes to how and when people work, make sure it’s what people want.

If you’re about to propose a change to senior leaders — or even argue against a change — make sure you have the data you need to back up your argument.  

We’ve previously discussed how employee surveys can support things like retention. When you’re trying to get to the bottom of whether or not your people are happy at work, or gain a clearer sense of how they feel about the workplace, you can ask your employees about flexible work options as well.

  • Give them the option to answer anonymously, especially if you think that will help you get the most honest answers.  
  • You might discover that only a few employees are interested in working shorter weeks, less hours, or being able to work from home now and again.

In addition to internal data, keep an eye on what’s happening at other companies. For instance, not long ago, Amazon launched a pilot program, where employees on different technical teams began working 30-hour weeks, received the same benefits as 40-hour employees, but earned 75% of full-time pay. This type of arrangement can excite certain employees, but might not be for everyone.

Consider other ways to create efficiencies without changing workday hours.

Ask yourself: what would it take for your workplace to become more efficient? Is shortening the workweek really an answer?

If your workers are the type who can get all of their work done in 25-30 hours, then where are the other 10-15 hours going? In many cases, they’re getting sucked into the vortex of meetings.

Meetings are often the main culprit when it comes to stopping workflow. And when meetings are redundant, excessive, or disorganized, they can create levels of inefficiency, disharmony, and frustration, especially when people feel “stuck at work” because of them.

So, does that mean doing away with meetings? How would that idea square with your daily operations, or things like weekly check-ins and team brainstorms?

Instead of a snappy four-day workweek, perhaps the real path toward creating a more efficient, productive workplace starts with changing the way you meet?

  • Could HR and managers devise a company-wide schedule that includes consistent meeting blocks? It might not be practical to call every Tuesday “all-day meeting day,” but putting the idea up for discussion could lead to a powerful brainstorm among leaders and senior employees.
  • Of course, setting a meeting to figure out how to have fewer meetings doesn’t exactly solve the issue, does it? Consider bringing the topic up at a leadership retreat, or start a group chat on an internal leadership messaging board. 
  • From there, what if your company incorporated a system where most meetings happened on specific days, or during specific blocks of time? Could you realistically institute a “no meetings after 1 p.m.” rule? Would this improve productivity during the last third of the workday?

There’s no magic pill for productivity, and redefining the workweek may or may not be the right answer. However, broaching the topic can help you find a way to enhance the employee experience, and create a more efficient and productive workplace.


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