The shift to a 4 day work week has been gaining momentum since 2022, and for good reason. As a solution for people struggling due to pandemic-related stress, workplace stress, overwork and burnout, and the pressures of daily lives, 4 day work weeks can be part of the answer.
And 4 day work week experiments are no longer occurring in a vacuum by progressive companies. CNN named it one of the nine most important new ideas in business. Globally, national governments have even sponsored trials of 4 day weeks.
And 4 day work weeks don’t just impact employees’ well-being, studies have shown there are social, economic, and climate benefits, in addition to a positive effect on the company’s bottom line.
In this post, we’ll define the 4 day work week, detail the positives, and share our own experience adopting this model, including poignant advice from our CEO to companies hoping to emulate our example.
Compressed vs Reduced 4 Day Work Weeks
To be clear, we’re talking about a reduced 4 day work week.
A 4 day work week can be described in two ways: compressed and reduced. A compressed work week divides a 35+ hour workload over four days with the same salary and benefits as a traditional five-day work week. A reduced work week removes eight hours from the employee schedule, reducing total working hours to 32 per week over four days with the same salary and benefits as a traditional full-time position.
The 4 Day Work Week Is Undeniably Positive: for Us and the Planet
Research conducted by the non-profit organization 4 Day Week Global shows the clear benefit of a 4 day work week model. The organization studied 33 companies in 6 different countries that decreased their employee’s workload to four days (32 hours a week) during a six-month trial. The experiment questioned whether employees could be as productive in 20 percent less time at the same pay. The results were astonishingly positive.
Companies revealed a revenue increase of 8.14 percent during the trial, and an incredible 37.55 percent increase compared to the same six-month period the previous year. New hires increased by 12.16 percent over the course of the trial. Perhaps even more incredible, these results came during the “Great Resignation,” a time in 2022 when workers were quitting their jobs at record rates due to burn-out, desire for a better work-life balance, and feeling that their jobs weren’t meeting their expectations.
Employee satisfaction was at an all-time high during the trial, with 96.9 percent saying they definitely wanted to continue having a 4 day work week. They reported a decline in stress and burn-out, increased productivity, and higher job satisfaction. Employees were able to spend more time with family and friends, sleep better, and increase time spent exercising.
A reduced work week has also proven significant environmental, economic, and social benefits. Carbon emissions decrease with less commuting and employees socialize more with a three-day weekend. In turn, this supports businesses and, in some countries, desired population growth. Japan, for example, has historically had an intense working culture: “karoshi,” a term meaning “death from overwork,” was coined in the 1970s. However, the country recently released new guidelines to encourage companies to make a shift to a 4 day work week in an effort to encourage a healthier work-life balance. Japan hopes that anticipating the extra day off will push citizens to boost the economy by spending more money, and even lead to increased marriage and birth rates.
Why We Jumped On Board the 4 Day Trend
As a result of the pandemic, many companies are putting work-life balance front and center, and a 4 day work week can be a huge part of that effort. With happier, well-rested employees, companies see an increase in profits and productivity, and giving employees more flexibility — reduced hours and remote/hybrid work arrangements — helps retain the team members they’ve invested time and money into training. As evidenced by job sites like 4DayWeek.io, employee demand for the 4 day work week is high.
At SPI, a 4 day, reduced work week was implemented in the beginning of 2022 during a trial period. The results from the team aligned with the global study cited above. Employees reported they were more motivated and productive, completed tasks on deadline, supported each other more, and felt a stronger sense of connection within the team. Employees also took the extra time to pick up new hobbies, exercise more, complete housework ahead of time, and have more quality time with family and friends. Unsurprisingly, we’ve decided to keep the 4 day work week in place permanently.
“Don’t Rush It”
The 4 day work week has undeniably been a home run for Team SPI. So what would we recommend to other companies hoping to follow suit? Here’s what our CEO, Matt Gartland, had to say about it:
“As Uncle Ben famously said to young Peter Parker, ‘with great power comes great responsibility.’
“The 4 day work week is a great power for the modern workplace. It’s a genuine competitive advantage as well as an embodiment of important cultural values. It’s undeniably the future of work, especially for those of us who run remote-based companies with distributed teams. It can foster closer togetherness within the team. It can nurture more commitment to the mission of the company at large.
That’s all really awesome. It’s also really serious.
The opposite of those outcomes is possible with a hasty implementation. Details are necessary to define and align on expectations for how the 4 day work week is going to actually work as well as how its effectiveness is going to be evaluated. Here’s the big one: Under what conditions could the 4 day work week be deemed to be ineffective and thus subject to rollback?
At SPI, we devoted a lot of time and energy to defining our take on a 4 day work week. The program details were the subject of active conversations with the team. Those same operating details were codified formally into our governing employee handbook. This process took months. This is how you treat this awesome opportunity with the respect it deserves.
So lean into it. It’s worth it. Just don’t rush it.”
Employees are happier to work for a company where they feel valued and appreciated. It’s unlikely that the world will make the shift to a 4 day work week overnight, but companies are realizing that to retain employees and attract new staff they need to embrace a healthier work-life balance. The momentum behind the 4 day work week continues, and we’re keen to see what positive, compounding effects it reveals.