The four-day workweek has been gaining momentum lately, with some companies saying their trials of the shortened work hours were so effective, they won’t go back to having employees work five days a week. And in California, legislators have even proposed a bill to shorten the standard workweek to 32 hours for larger companies across the state.
While it may not be the right choice for all businesses, figuring out if a four-day workweek can help your business doesn’t have to be a guessing game. Learn what a four-day workweek is, how it can help your business, and how to measure its effectiveness through a trial period.
What is a 4-day workweek?
The four-day workweek is a business model where employees work for four days during the week instead of the traditional five, but retain the same salary, pay, and benefits. This may mean working 32 hours Monday through Thursday, and allowing employees to take off Fridays for an extended weekend. Employees may also be given the option to choose which day they take off to better accommodate their needs outside of work or personal preferences. Some employers may even spread 32 hours over 5 days.
There are other models to a four-day workweek, including staggered days off for different employees and shortened daily hours (e.g. six hours a day instead of eight). Regardless of the structure, the general idea is a 100:80:100 model, where employees are expected to do 100% of their work in 80% of the time for 100% of their pay.
What are the benefits of a 4-day workweek?
There are some obvious benefits to a four-day workweek, particularly for employees. More personal time means they have greater freedom to engage in their commitments outside of work, like family, hobbies, school, or community service. This is a clear boon to employee mental health and work-life balance, and employees usually say it’s the reason they like the idea of a four-day workweek. Other benefits include reduced burnout, and improved job satisfaction. And for those who go into an office, reduced commuting time factors in highly as well.
But less obvious benefits have also come out in recent trials conducted, including better prioritization across projects and better communication as the company learns to manage with fewer hours in the week. This means improved productivity, too. When employees and management know that they have to finish projects on a shorter timeline, they’re much more likely to nail down what matters most and focus on important work. This, in turn, improves employee job satisfaction and reduces burnout.
However, there are some possible drawbacks. Shorter work hours mean less time to get the same amount of work done, and this can put a lot of pressure on workers. While a shorter work week may mean more time off, some employees may work longer hours during the four-day workweek to make up for lost time, meaning they may face burnout more quickly. Some employees may also fear a loss of pay because they’re working fewer hours, and try to make up the extra time to ensure their jobs are safe.
Pros and cons of a 4-day workweek
For quick reference, here’s a list of the pros and cons of a 4 day workweek to consider when deciding if you should run a trial across your team.
- More personal time for employees, resulting in better mental health and better work-life balance
- Reduced burnout and attrition
- Improved job satisfaction
- Better prioritization across projects
- Better communication between employees
- Improved productivity
- Fewer hours to get work done (if using a reduced-hour model)
- Potential increase in pressure on employees
- Risk of higher burnout
- Fear of loss of pay and job security
What companies have tried a 4-day workweek?
You may have heard of startups or tech companies implementing the four-day workweek for their employees. But in the past several years, more and more companies have piloted a four-day workweek, including non-profit services, marketing agencies, universities and colleges, and even government offices.
Recently, a study of 61 companies with over 3,000 employees, published by the University of Cambridge and Boston College, showed just how the four-day workweek can impact businesses. Each of the companies agreed to pay their employees their full salaries for a four-day workweek during the six-month trial period.
As the world’s largest study conducted on the four-day workweek, the findings were big:
- Most organizations reported that business productivity remained the same, with an average increase in revenues of 1.4%
- Employees said they were having better work-life balance and were more satisfied with their lives outside of work
- Fewer employees left their jobs and most reported a reduction in burnout
In fact, while a majority (92%) of the companies involved in the study decided to continue the trial beyond the six-month deadline, 18 companies decided to make the four-day workweek the new standard at their company.
How do I know if a 4-day workweek is right for my organization?
While the data from the six-month study from Cambridge University and Boston College are compelling, basing your decision on what works for other companies isn’t the best idea. Most companies are basing their switch to a four-day workweek on subjective data, like surveys, which can lead to uncertainty.
The best way to determine if a four-day workweek is right for your business is to use a workforce analytics tool like ActivTrak to give you more granular data and insights into the impact in your specific organization. You can still use surveys to collect sentiment data, but combining those responses with actual business results and productivity data (such as focus and productive time) will give you the most accurate view of how a four-day workweek impacts your organization.
How to run a 4-day workweek trial at your organization
There are a number of steps to setting up a four-day workweek trial in your organization.
1. Determine your approach
In order to run a successful trial, you’ll need to decide what the scope of the four-day workweek trial will be. Start by defining which employees will be included, whether it’s the full organization, a single team, or subsets within teams. You’ll also need to determine which structure you’ll be using, whether it’s Fridays off or a shortened work day. Dividing employees into two groups will help set up conditions for an A/B testing trial.
2. Set a time limit
In order to get better data, you’ll need to determine how long your trial period will last. The UK study was six months long, and yielded enough data to allow some companies to make big decisions. A single month may not produce enough data for you to truly understand benefits, but if the trial is too long, you’ll lose sight of the goal. Three to six months is a good time to measure the effects of a four-day workweek.
3. Define how you’ll measure success (or failure)
Determining what success means during this type of trial will depend on your business and specific organizational goals. Some success metrics may include:
- Revenue, sales numbers, and other top-level metrics
- Employee sentiment and morale
- Digital work activity data
4. Manage reporting
Once you’ve set your metrics, you’ll need to set up reporting so you can see what the data is telling you. You’ll need before and after comparisons, changes over time, and to see how metrics impact each other.
Example: Running a 4-day workweek trial with ActivTrak
ActivTrak is a workforce productivity and analytics SaaS platform that helps organizations understand how people work. The platform includes an Impact Analysis feature that helps you measure the effectiveness and impact of a four-day workweek trial on your organization. With it, your organization can create and manage segments of employees whose work habits they want to compare. You can view this data in the Impact Analysis Dashboard to see a side-by-side comparison of key productivity and utilization metrics across the span of the trial. Below is an example of how to set up a 4-day workweek trial with the Activtrak platform:
- If you’re not already an ActivTrak customer, you’ll need to set up a free trial.
- Using the Impact Analysis feature, you’ll want to divide your employees into two groups: Segment A, the control group, which has a five-day workweek, and Segment B, the test group, which has a four-day workweek. Both groups should be spread across all of the organization’s locations, and the trial would run for one quarter.
- Look at the dashboards and live reports to analyze and compare screen time, productive hours, utilization and workday span to understand if your team members with a four-day workweek are working longer hours — risking burnout in order to get their work done in a shorter time frame. Expectations are that the productive hours per day and focused hours per day would be higher on a four-day workweek, but not so high as to indicate over-utilization.
Implement a 4-day workweek trial to uncover benefits for your organization
A four-day workweek may be the next step in labor standards and productivity in the U.S. and elsewhere, but knowing if it’s the right structure for your business means understanding its impact. Running a trial of a four-day workweek is the best way to determine if your organization will benefit from a four-day workweek.
If your organization is ready to test out the four-day workweek, get a demo of ActivTrak Impact Analysis.