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Five Into Four? Tips to Navigating the Four-Day Work Week

Are you seeking strategies to increase output, maintain high employee morale, and help your staff balance their personal and professional lives? Then it might be time to consider converting to a four-day work week instead of the standard five-day one.


The four-day workweek has received positive feedback from employers and employees in a study involving 73 UK organizations and ended in November.


A New York Times article stated that "most of the companies participating in a four-day workweek pilot program in Britain said they had seen no loss of productivity during the experiment, and in some cases had seen a significant improvement."


Moreover, when surveyed, 85% of the participating companies indicated they were "likely" or "extremely likely: to continue the four-day workweek permanently.


Less May Be More


While it seems puzzling that a drop in hours could lead to higher productivity, some things are clear. Employees remain energized and focused with more time during the week to devote to activities like exercise, hobbies, and loved ones.


The analysis also shows that despite its employee-friendly benefits, remote work cannot achieve what the four-day workweek can. According to Joe O'Conner, CEO of 4 Day Week Global, the nonprofit organization that carried out the study:


"If you look at the impact of the pandemic on the workplace, often we were too focused on the location of work. Remote and hybrid work can bring many benefits, but it doesn't address burnout and overwork."


Statistics Back Up Findings


While thresholds for burnout and overwork may be subjective, respondents to a recent four-day workweek survey by Eagle Hill Consulting provided some analytics that are irrefutable.


Among them:


83% of employees say a four-day workweek would alleviate burnout

51% of employees feel they can do their jobs to the fullest extent in less than 40 hours.

28% of full-time employees would accept a cut in pay in exchange for a four-day workweek.

85% feel that a four-day workweek is logistically possible for them.

94% acknowledged that a four-day workweek would be an attractive benefit.

Clearly, the four-day workweek is a hot topic within the business community, as evidenced by this and similar studies conducted in the United States and elsewhere. However, this approach has critics.


Not Everyone Is on Board


In a piece titled 'The Cons of a Four-Day Work Week' on peoplehum.com, authors cite seven factors that make the four-day work week undesirable. Among them:


Benefits are More Fantasy than Reality


While employees who worked four days a week enjoyed more autonomy, personal worth, and job security than those with a traditional workweek, after 25 months, nearly all admitted that the improvements had vanished.


Extra Day Off Downsides


The extra day off that makes a shortened work week attractive may result in a ten-hour workday. In France, employees in a four-day workweek experiment put in the same hours as before, forcing the company to pay overtime.


Same Stress, Just Compressed


A four-day workweek could lead to days packed with meetings and less time to be productive, leading to stress and burnout. Moreover, employers may demand more dedication during the four days employees work.


Right for Your Enterprise Business?


Only you can determine if a four-day workweek will benefit your enterprise business. However, the following considerations can make the transition smoother if you move forward.


For starters, consider a trial period. Six months should give you enough time to evaluate whether the experiment warrants stopping or making it permanent.


This post on desktime.com outlines additional steps summarized here:


Eliminate Low Priority Tasks


Help your employees reprioritize their to-do lists by eliminating tasks that take too long. Focus on the necessary work and stop what's not. Consider outsourcing low-level tasks that must be done but require little experience or oversight.


Reduce Meeting Time


Work with your managers to reduce the number of meetings held each week and encourage alternative methods of communication. Email and platforms like slack can often accomplish in minutes what meetings take hours to accomplish.


Communicate the Shift


Inform your customers and clients that you're moving to a four-day workweek. Many will be receptive, and those that aren't can typically be dealt with on a one-to-one basis. Assure skeptics that the products and services they require will still be there under this new approach. Then take steps to ensure this happens.


At the end of your trial period, you'll have a clear sense of what worked, what didn't, and what adjustments will need to be made to make the four-day workweek part of your culture—or part of your past.