What comes to mind when I suggest the idea of a four-day workweek? Does it sound too good to be true? Do I sound like a lazy millennial who wants to get paid for work I’m not doing? What if I told you that studies are showing offering employees a four-day workweek (while paying them for five) could actually offer a number of benefits that could make this practice worthwhile? Whether this concept is something you find exciting or something you reflexively roll your eyes at, consider the following four reasons why this might be a revolutionary practice for businesses all over the globe, including yours!
Reason # 1: The 40-Hour Workweek is Dying
Here’s a short history lesson for you: Back in 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which states that employers have to pay overtime to all employees who worked more than 44 hours in a week. This was later amended in 1940 to reduce the workweek to 40 hours, thereby birthing what we all know to be the 40-hour workweek. The idea that we still adhere to this practice nearly 80 years later is astounding, particularly when there is a plethora of scientific evidence that suggests 40 hours is simply too much. This is particularly true when you consider how often the average worker exceeds that number. A 40-hour workweek can lead to some major adverse effects on your employees, including burnout, decreased productivity, and limited creativity, to name a few.
Reason #2: It’s Been Tried and Tested
Recently, a company in New Zealand called Perpetual Gardens caused something of a stir when they tested out the four-day workweek for two months and found it produced overwhelmingly successful results. The response indicated that 78% of the employees were able to better manage their work/life balance, and stress levels fell by over 7% from the previous year. The whole concept behind this experiment was to have employees work smarter, not harder. When they had only four days to complete what used to be five days worth of work, they had to get creative with how they managed their time. However, this was made significantly easier due to the increase in productivity and the decrease in stress levels.
Reason #3: Happy Employees, Happy Company
There is a lot to be said for the benefits of keeping your employees happy. First and foremost, the increase in recruitment and retention rates would skyrocket with a four-day workweek. When you consider the cost of employee turnover, it’s easy to see why it’s worth the effort to hire and keep the best possible candidates. I have no doubt that Perpetual Gardens received an immense amount of applications after the news went out that they were testing out the four-day workweek. What’s more, the publicity for their business probably has them growing like crazy. Between the influx in business, improved retention rates, higher productivity, and happier employees, it’s easy to see why a schedule like that would appeal to job seekers and business owners alike.
Reason #4: The Importance of Work/Life Balance
I cannot stress enough how important it is to put an effort into improving your employees’ work/life balance. There are a number of things you can do outside of cutting back 20% of your business’ workweek (here are five!), but that doesn’t mean you should disregard this idea right off the bat. Consider how smooth your company could run when it’s full of happy, healthy employees who are firing on all cylinders. The numbers speak for themselves in the end.
Not sure if your company could truly benefit from a four-day workweek? Consider following in Perpetual Gardens’ footsteps and implement a 2-month trial period. If you collect and monitor the data closely enough, it should give you a decent idea about whether it’s worth the underlying costs. If not, you have the hard data to explain to your employees your reasoning for not following through, and you’re hardly worse off for it.
In this day and age, employers have to focus on their employees’ well-being if they’re going to retain the best talent in the industry. If the four-day workweek isn’t right for your business, what other strategies have you implemented to improve your company culture? Leave your tips in the comments below!