This blog is a direct transcription of our Youtube video: 4 Day Work Week: Missing Piece for Modern Workplaces or Management Fad?
The four-day work week is one of the hottest topics when it comes to workplace practices. Is this the missing link when it comes to more productive employees and better mental health? Or is it simply a management fad?
Advantages of the 4 day work week:
So first of all, there was a study from the World Health Organization that found that 745,000 people in 2016 died from stroke heart disease related to working long hours. This was an increase of 33 percent since 2000. What they found is that, If you work 55 hours or more, you have a 35 percent increased chance of getting a stroke or 17 percent chance of having a heart attack. We are literally working ourselves to death.
So why are we working such long hours?
Well it might allow you to know that we’re patting out our days each time due to what’s called the Parkinson’s law. Now Parkinson’s law was based off a study where they looked at students and gave one group four hours to complete a task and another group eight hours to complete a task. And what they found is that both groups completed the task within the allotted time.
Now you know this happens at work because you see that someone has an hour to get something done or half an hour to get something done and that’s how much time it takes them to do the task. So the idea that we need this five days exactly to get all that work done doesn’t make sense. If people were given four days to complete the same amount of work, they would find ways to be more efficient with their time. Therefore, Parkinson’s law would take effect.
Now back in 1930 when the five-day work week was developed, we had nowhere near the technology that we have today. What that meant is that work back then was at a much slower pace than it is right now. The intensity of work today pushed into five days is not as good for us as spreading it out. So we have the ability to work faster and more efficiently, but also it’s kind of like five days in a slow jog back in 1930 is not the same as five days as a intense sprint today. So we pull it back to four days, we give ourselves a bit of a chance to recover.
Productivity, attraction and retention
And a number of cases have found substantial improvements in productivity, attraction retention, and overall staff happiness. For example, Microsoft Japan implemented the four day work week and found a 40 percent increase in productivity. Another company buffer who is a startup in the US, found that 91 percent of employees reported being happier and more productive. These are real cases that’s happening all around the world.
Disadvantages of the 4 day work week:
Let’s first of all look at the world health organization study that talked about us working ourselves to death with people working 55 hours per week. It’s important not to look at these alarmist studies and say, “hey, this problem that’s out here needs this solution here”. This problem of people working 55 hours per week is different to this potential solution which is looking at people working 40 hours per week and saying they should work 32 hours per week, or else work 40 hours per week across 4 days. They’re different categories of people, so that problem won’t be solved by this potential change.
Hour v Culture
I think the second thing to consider is that a lot of these studies look at the total work hours as the cause of stress, when in fact if you think about the other factors at work such as your leader, whether you’re in the right job, whether you have autonomy to make decisions about your work, your work relationships, and other work hygiene factors. All of these things have a significantly bigger impact on stress than the amount of hours. Think about this, if you’re working 45 hours per week in a job that you love, you can control the work that you do when you work on it, you have a great leader you work with, great relationships, you feel inspired everyday, versus working 35 hours per week, and your boss is horrible, you hate your job, it’s boring, it’s frustrating, your colleagues don’t care. The 45 hours is going to be significantly better for your mental health than the 35 hours.
No turning back
Now with the last point around attraction and retention, think about moving from a five day work week to a four day work week. If things change in the future and you have to move back to a five day work week is going to be incredibly difficult to make that change. In fact, we’re making that change that’s likely to lead to disengagement and staff turnover. So if a company is going to move from five days to four days, they better be sure because moving back is going to be incredibly difficult.
So the four day work week is one of the hottest topics when it comes to workplace practices and employee benefits. Is this the next big thing, and progressive companies are adopting it early, or is it a management fad that’s going to fizzle out? When considering the case studies that are there, certainly, there are companies who are on board and saying it’s highly beneficial. However, even if that is the case, is it right for every business and could it actually make things worse? Ultimately for a business, they need to think about this decision very very carefully.
Now as a graduate, what would you think if you were to come across a company that had a four day work week? How important would that factor in for your decision to join? How does that compare to the leadership of the company, the job itself, career opportunities, or pay?