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Thought Leadership

Is a Four-Day Work Week Right for Your Business?

4 day work week printed calendar with pink pins on three days off in week weekend days four day working week concept. Modern approach doing business short workweek. Effectiveness of employees

Patrick Flynn
Assistant Professor of Human Resource Management
Karen Jansen
Professor of Leadership and Change

The introduction of recent congressional legislation has sparked discourse around how we define full-time work in the United States.

Specifically, there’s been a call to introduce a four-day work week. The idea isn’t new, but it’s gained momentum. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a series of workforce changes that were likely on the horizon in the coming decades anyway, and that’s driven conversations about “the new normal” at work.

Several companies have piloted four-day work weeks internationally, and their efforts have shown that reducing the number of weekly work days for employees doesn’t necessarily hurt the bottom line. Their employees report reduced stress and enhanced well-being, and studies across the world offer promising evidence: 

These results are encouraging, and they show clear benefits to rethinking the work week. Offering a four-day work week or other flexible working arrangement may help employers to attract new talent.

Despite those benefits, there are factors employers must consider before implementing a four-day work week. One is serving customers who expect full-time availability. Another is the actual implementation: Does shifting to four days mean simply shutting down for an additional day per week? 

Finally, there are questions related to pay and equity. Should employees receive full-time pay for part-time work? How can changes in work arrangements be distributed fairly to all employees? 

Companies should be cautious in adopting four-day-work-week policies. They can be “win-wins” for businesses and employees alike, but the work environment context and culture may determine whether any given company replicates the success we’ve outlined here. There are no magic, one-size-fits-all solutions

For example, the benefits of an extra day off will likely be quite different in workplaces where workers already have some workday flexibility than in settings where they don’t, such as a Department of Motor Vehicles office or an Amazon warehouse. The four-day work week may be particularly appealing to workers who have some autonomy over when and how the work gets done, or for those who regularly work more than 40 hours per week.

The four-day work week may not be the right solution (or only option) for every company. If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that there should be a suite of offerings that give workers an element of choice in balancing work and non-work time. A worker trying to make ends meet may choose to work multiple jobs or volunteer for extra hours, while a caregiver may value week-to-week schedule flexibility. 

Should you follow the four-day trend or forge your own path? Here are some questions to consider:

  • Are your employees motivated to work harder in less time?
  • How does less working time align with your organization’s customer schedule?
  • What other flexible arrangements are available?
  • How will you assess productivity, engagement, and performance?
  • How can you ensure an equitable and fair solution for workers in different types of jobs?

This post was originally published in Poole Thought Leadership.