Starting on September 1, 2022, the team at Hall and Associates have transitioned from the standard 5-day work week and become part of the growing number of businesses that use a 4-day work week. Whether in the public or private sector, firms around the world – from New Zealand to the United Kingdom, from Iceland to right here in Canada – are moving to a 4-day work week with no loss of pay in order to improve the work-life balance of their staff and increase the productivity and overall health of both their workplaces and their employees.
Advantages of a 4-day work week
For those who have made the transition, the 4-day work week offers several advantages. A 4-day week can offer improved work-life balance by leaving employees with more time to manage personal tasks such as medical appointments and childcare, which can prevent them from cluttering the working day. A 4-day week may also allow you to save on health costs, as a more rested workforce will miss fewer working days to illness, use fewer paid sick days, and may make group health insurance less expensive.
There are also potential benefits for individual and group productivity with a 4-day week; a Microsoft subsidiary in Japan reported a 40 percent increase in productivity after reducing their working hours, while a firm in New Zealand observed that their employees spent 35 percent less time on non-work websites (i.e. Facebook) after switching to a shorter week. A 4-day week may also allow you to develop a more stable, committed workforce; according to Canadian Business magazine, firms that offer shorter working weeks attract a higher quality of recruit than their competitors. In addition, reducing employee turnover may save your business money on retraining costs and severance. Other potential positive effects of a 4-day work week include reduced stress, fewer confrontations between employees and management, higher quality work by employees and maintained or increased revenue and customer satisfaction.
What’s the downside?
However, moving to a 4-day work week may not be for every business, as there are some tradeoffs to consider. To begin with, not every business can easily reduce their working hours without losing customers or cutting into profits – sectors including food service, retail, and industry/manufacturing are particularly exposed. The most successful 4-day week trials have tended to be in white-collar professions such as law, the non-profit sector, software development, municipal agencies, and some restaurants. A 4-day week may also potentially pose communication challenges to staff members handing off tasks to their co-workers, with less in-office time to connect or collaborate. Depending on the nature of your business, a reduction in office time may also mean less time to complete projects – and more stress – instead of more focused work: some employees in New Zealand have also reported that a shortened week left them with less time to socialize and a higher pace of work. While some 4-day week participants felt that a reduced week left them still motivated and creatively thinking about their work after coming home, others felt that it burdened them with working tasks off the clock. Some businesses, particularly ones with large workforces, may also find that savings are offset by higher costs associated with hiring more staff.
Is a 4-day work week right for your business?
The 4-day work week has become a growing trend among firms grappling with the effects of pandemic on employee burnout, higher workloads and staff shortages, alongside the increasing use of hybrid or remote working models – it was even proposed during the last Ontario provincial election. Most models of the 4-day week maintain pay levels while cutting hours, but there are more flexible hybrid models that account for individual employees within a firm, or for business that have seasonal sales patterns, with longer hours during the busy months and shorter hours during the slow months. The team at Hall and Associates is always available to discuss our experiences of the 4-day work week and whether adopting it makes sense for you and your business.