As leaders, we are always searching for ways to stay ahead of the competition while also taking good care of our employees. One trend that is gaining traction as a meaningful solution to both of these challenges is shifting to a 4 day work week. While this may sound like an unworkable solution at first glance, it can actually provide numerous benefits such as improved productivity and employee morale among many others. Research increasingly shows that the four day work week is not only good for overall morale – it could also be an economic lifesaver. In this blog post, we will explore how one global pilot study has brought positive returns across the world and what these results could mean for leaders everywhere.
Exploration of the relationship between policies that drive productivity, the human need for rest and the influence of culture on human behavior is not a new discussion.
History of the Work Week
Exploration of the relationship between policies that drive productivity, the human need for rest and the influence of culture on human behavior is not a new discussion. It’s actually thousands of years old. The current 5-day work week and weekend did not emerge until the 1900s. Like all things in history, a shift occurs approximately every 100 years. Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, decreased the work week mandate for Ford factory workers from 6 days a week to 5 days a week in 1926. We are less than 5 years away from the 100th anniversary of Ford’s mandate.
The 4 Day Work Week
Murmurings of shifting towards a shorter work week started over 10 years ago with the increase in use of technology in society. We tempered this discussion by offering flex-time but to the disappointment of many it did not become the standard. Now the discussion of why a 5 day work week is necessary is back in the limelight.
So what changed?
Three key changes:
- The COVID-19 pandemic forced a global time of reflection on our relationship with work.
- We maximized the use of technology to achieve work outcomes.
- The make up of the global workforce is like no previous time.
First, the entire world experienced a collective trauma with the COVID-19 pandemic. When populations experience a collective trauma, closely examining life priorities is a normal occurrence. Many leaders had the privilege to reflect on their relationship with work for the first time in their careers. Many of them did not like what they saw.
Secondly, technology was finally used as many developers from the early 2000s intended. Connecting with colleagues based anywhere in the world and efficiently transmitting information and ideas across borders. We tested a variety of jobs that could be accomplished outside of the traditional office environment. Old paradigms were abolished.
Third, the global workforce has changed. Gen Z has entered the workforce. The average corporation has employees who identify as Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z. The digital revolution is being driven by Millennials and Gen Z because these are the generations that grew up with technology. In addition to driving use of technology, Millennials and Gen Z challenge traditionalist paradigms. As Baby Boomers and Gen X retire or approach retirement, Millennials and Gen Z are leveraging this time to push for the creation of work environments that align with their preferences. One of their preferences is less restriction on when and how work gets accomplished.
The digital revolution is being driven by Millennials and Gen Z because these are the generations that grew up with technology.
Last week, the preliminary results from the first two trials of the 4 Day Week Global Pilot were released in a 40 page report. Participating companies in the 4 Day Week Pilot committed to testing a 4-day, 32 hour work week without any reduction in pay for a period of 6 months. Companies in Admin, IT, and Telecoms; Professional Services; Non-profit; Arts/Entertainment; Manufacturing; Construction; Educational Services; Food; Healthcare; Social Assistance; and Retail located primarily in the United State and Ireland.
Key findings include:
- 88% of companies opted for a 4-day work week instead of taking reduced daily hours 5 days a week.
- 47% of companies reported that Friday was the most popular choice of day.
- 8% of companies opted to not give all employees the same day off.
- Almost 50% of the employees in these two trials were below the age of 35 years, 30% were between the ages 35-44 years, and 20% were above the age of 45 years.
- 72% had at least a Bachelor’s degree.
- 97% of companies were leaning towards continuing with the trial or are planning to continue with the trial.
- Overall, revenue increased by an average of 8.14% from the beginning of the trial period to the end of the trial period.
Findings for employee metrics include:
- Number of sick days (absenteeism) decreased.
- Resignations declined.
- Current work ability increased.
- Perception of control over work increased.
- Stress, burnout, fatigue, and conflict declined.
- Physical and mental health, positive affect, work-family and work-life balance, and satisfaction across multiple domains of life increased.
97% of companies were leaning towards continuing with the trial or are planning to continue with the trial.
Additional results can be found here. These results are promising. I look forward to reports from other countries being released soon. The majority of companies that participated are planning to continue trialing the 4 day work week. Many companies will be monitoring these trials very closely to make informed decisions about their own futures. Several governments are monitoring the trials as well. Henry Ford did not conduct such a trial in 1926. The ability to make in informed decision about such a significant change is no doubt a bonus.
Four day work weeks are looking like they might be the new normal for office life post-pandemic. In a time where work life balance is more important than ever and technology allows us to be productive anywhere, it’s worth considering following the lead of global companies in moving to a 4 day work week. What would you do with an extra day off each week? Imagine all of the things you could accomplish both inside and outside of work if you had that extra day! Join other leading companies in giving the 4 Day Week trial a try – your employees (and your bottom line) will thank you for it.