A four-day workweek is the ultimate flexible work schedule. Picture happier employees working four days a week and getting their normal five-day paycheck. And a three-day weekend every weekend! Remote work is still in high demand, but of all the benefits HR leaders could offer employees, a four-day workweek is the most life-changing.
Employers are realizing that if they can rethink where people work, they can also rethink how long people work. Belgium, Iceland, and South Africa are experimenting with four-day workweeks. In 2021, the Japanese government recommended that companies allow employees to opt for reduced hours at work. That same year, the Spanish government invested 50 million euros in a 32-hour workweek without cutting employee pay.
Massachusetts lawmakers have proposed a Smart Work Week Pilot program in the United States, while New York City launched an equity-first flexible workweek policy for administration employees. Business leaders worldwide are experiencing overwhelming success in finding ways to condense schedules and offer four-day workweeks with five days of pay.
In this article, you’ll discover that research validates the four-day workweek as a win-win solution benefiting both organizations and their employees. Forward-thinking companies worldwide recognize that quality is just as important as the quantity of work. We will explain how adopting a compressed workweek distinguishes companies and provide practical insights for implementation within your organization.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Achieving work-life balance
- Benefits of a four-day workweek
- How to implement a four-day workweek
- LSAs boost the benefits of a four-day workweek
Achieving work-life balance
How much time can we dedicate to work and stay healthy? A recent study by the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization shows that regularly working more than 55 hours a week negatively affects health and well-being. Overwork means stress, burnout, reduced job satisfaction, and diminished health.
There’s medicine hiding in plain sight: social connection.
Shorter working hours with the same pay means having the time to build and sustain healthy relationships. Meaningful social connections ease loneliness and increase employees’ sense of happiness and well-being. A 2023 Surgeon General Advisory warns that the loneliness epidemic has profound consequences for our individual and collective health and well-being.
There’s medicine hiding in plain sight: social connection. The physical health consequences of poor or insufficient connection include a 29% increased risk of heart disease, a 32% increased risk of stroke, and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults. Additionally, a lack of social connection increases the risk of premature death by more than 60%.
Social connection is medicine hiding in plain sight. A long-term Harvard Study of Adult Development has tracked thousands of people over the course of 85 years. They found the factor that correlates with good living is good relationships. “People who are happiest, and who stay healthiest as they grow old, have the warmest connections with other people.”
Benefits of a four-day workweek
Employees’ physical and mental health improves when organizations embrace a shorter workweek. Research shows people are less stressed, value their jobs more, and have better lives outside of work. Job satisfaction and employee engagement increase. And in most cases, people are as productive in four days as they are in five.
1. Support overall well-being
When employees have more time to recharge and recuperate, stress levels go down, and mental health and overall well-being improve. We know people who work fewer hours get more sleep. More time for leisure activities and self-care means healthier lifestyles and improved overall public health. Efficient work schedules with longer breaks reduce absenteeism and sick days.
2. Increase employee engagement and satisfaction
The traditional five-day week can leave employees with caregiving responsibilities, disabilities, or other personal needs disengaged and dissatisfied. Shorter workweeks with reduced working hours are more inclusive and meet the needs of all talent.
Highly engaged employees are much less likely to resign. Employee satisfaction and loyalty increase when people are working fewer hours and have time to enjoy their lives outside of work.
3. Attract and retain talent
A four-day workweek makes a company more appealing and bolsters employee retention. Consulting firm Gartner finds that the four-day workweek improves talent retention with a 57% reduction in attrition. “In fact, 63% of candidates rated a 4-day work week with the same pay as the top innovative benefit that would attract them to a job.”
Companies like Chief note the value in hiring talent who can prioritize and be ruthless with their time, like working moms. The most talented individuals are more likely to choose a company that offers flexibility and supports a healthy work-life balance.
Your best time and energy saver is reducing meetings.
4. Boost corporate reputation
A condensed workweek signals that the organization values employees’ total well-being and cares about its employees’ happiness and quality of life. By operating for fewer days, companies contribute to resource conservation efforts as a part of their corporate social responsibility strategy.
Microsoft Japan implemented a “Work-Life Choice Challenge” experiment in 2019. The result was a 40% increase in productivity and praise for the company’s commitment to employee well-being.
5. Improve productivity and profits
Corporate implementation of the four-day workweek has shown that employees are more productive when they work fewer hours in a concentrated manner. Norway and Denmark work the shortest average hours of European countries and have comparably outsized productivity.
Fewer hours to complete tasks can motivate employees to be more focused and efficient. Higher output per hour worked translates to overall stronger revenue generation. Reduced costs and overhead expenses and fewer business expenses boost profits. Your best time and energy saver is reducing meetings.
How to implement a four-day workweek
A key part of the model is that people are willing to squeeze all their productivity into four days. So, while they may be spending less of their time at work, they aren’t doing less work. The secret is work reorganization: find ways to streamline workflows to maximize efficiency and cut out the least productive activities.
Streamline and delegate
Assess workloads, reassign or delegate tasks as necessary, and prioritize high-impact activities. Harness the power of your teams’ efforts by streamlining workflow and building accountability. The best way to save time and energy is to minimize meetings. Reduce their frequency, duration, and participants for maximum efficiency. Meeting overload is real.
How many times have you thought: “This could have been an email.”? Messaging should replace meetings and calls whenever possible in the spirit of productive, collaborative work. Set clear expectations for communication on your teams to avoid overcommunication.
Manage time and productivity
Help employees maximize their output during shorter workdays by modeling effective time-blocking and goal-setting strategies. Allow your people to work while they’re at work. Make sure workspaces are set up for concentration and focused productivity. A staggered schedule or a rotating day off increases flexibility and maximizes coverage to meet client and customer needs.
Shift personal tasks
When people are at work, they are at work. Appointments, school meetings, and volunteering move to the off day. Employees benefit from accomplishing personal tasks from phone calls to doctor appointments during regular business hours each week, reducing missed work and making their lives easier.
Adjust the pace
The pace of work will naturally level up as employees make each hour of the workday more productive. Remove barriers to success by eliminating bottlenecks and redundancies, automating repetitive tasks, and using technology to reduce time-consuming work. Block meeting-free focus time as people adapt to new, more efficient routines.
Prioritize work-life balance
Establish a company culture that encourages employees to set boundaries, take regular breaks, and disconnect from work during days off without guilt.
Innovative organizations understand that employees can balance work with their personal lives without sacrificing productivity. Empower your people with more time for their well-being, to spend with family, to pursue their passions, or to fulfill personal commitments. A 2021 CareerBuilder survey found that 43% of workers found work-life balance to be the most attractive benefit when seeking a job.
Explore alternative strategies for employee well-being
Implementing a four-day workweek may not always be possible. In our modern workplaces, there can be limitations or restrictions on a shortened workweek. Instead, consider flexible time-off policies, unlimited PTO, or floating personal days. These options allow your people autonomy over schedules and promote work-life balance and employee total well-being. Flexible policies demonstrate a commitment to employee satisfaction and productivity, contributing to a positive and people-first work environment.
LSAs boost the benefits of a four-day workweek
Everyone deserves enough free time to enjoy their lives. Organizations can structure Lifestyle Spending Accounts to enhance employees’ lives and encourage their people to make the most of that extra day off, no matter what they plan to do with their time.
Pairing a four-day workweek with the built-in flexibility of LSAs allows employees to invest in what matters most to them. LSAs empower employees’ top priorities – from personal well-being to relationship building to strategizing for the future. Whether they enroll in wellness programs, find third places, or pursue a degree in their newfound free time.
LSAs and four-day work weeks are at the forefront of shaping the future of work for all. Discover how an LSA with Espresa can help support your employees. Reach out to one of our workplace benefit experts today for a demo!