Opinion: The case for the four-day workweek


While some employers are giving up in desperation, a growing number have started experimenting with working time reductions to give their employees a break. They are offering a four-day, 32-hour week with no pay cuts. As a researcher and labor expert, we know that shorter work weeks can go a long way towards making employees happier and more productive, and therefore businesses more profitable. In today’s tight job market, it makes sense that more companies are trying.

To be clear, the four-day week predates the pandemic. A small number of companies around the world had started implementing the concept as early as 2010, with good results, but much of it was anecdotal evidence.

More recently, other forms of working time reduction have been systematically studied. In Iceland, from 2015, 2,500 public sector workers began working 35 and 36 hour weeks with no change in pay. Careful research has revealed positive effects all around. Workers had less stress, more energy, better work-life balance, and stable or improved productivity.
Swedish studies of six-hour days for nurses found similar positive effects, with a significant improvement in their own well-being, but with a modest increase in wage costs due to hiring more staff to cover shifts. A common finding is that people who work four-day weeks get more sleep, which is a major contributor to well-being.

Better business performance

The company best known for embracing four-day weeks is New Zealand-based Perpetual Guardian, whose founder Andrew Barnes in 2018 offered employees the option of working 30 hours a week at the same pay, in committing to maintain the same productivity. Also a co-founder of 4 Day Week Global, Barnes commissioned an independent academic study ahead of the eight-week trial and found big improvements in employee well-being and company performance/revenue. He has since spearheaded the move to the four-day week, helping us run trials that support and study the impact of shorter working weeks on business, with over 150 companies participating and more than 7,500 employees worldwide. So far, the reports are very positive in terms of business performance and employee well-being.

Our first group of companies did not complete the six-month trial, but mid-term results show significant improvements in stress and burnout, physical and mental health, and job satisfaction. regard to life.

Stronger retention

As companies try to stem the tide of resignations and address the vacancy problem, it makes even more sense to offer shorter workweeks. Adam Husney, CEO of Healthwise, a Boise, Idaho-based nonprofit education provider, attributed high attrition rates in June 2021 to his decision to institute a four-day week two months later. which he says has dramatically improved employee retention. He also noted that working remotely created the confidence needed to succeed in shorter workweeks. He said he was confident his employees were always doing their best and he had the performance numbers to prove it.

There is an increasingly compelling economic case for shorter hours. Burnout and employee stress are the main motivations for some companies in their decision to test four-day work weeks. After all, maintaining 100% productivity might not be so crucial if the company can save on healthcare costs, resignations, and attracting talent.

Governments also have a vital role to play in helping fuel this movement with incentives, regulations and laws. A growing number of governments are in fact launching their own attempts to reduce working hours, or are encouraging companies to do so.

Momentum for the four-day work week is growing around the world. The future of work is less time spent at work. And it happened.


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