Should a 5-Day Work Week be a Thing of the Past?

June 17th, 2022
/
10 mins to read
Should a 5-Day Work Week be a Thing of the Past?

Explore the evolving workplace trends questioning the 5-day work week. Stay ahead by understanding the shift towards flexibility and competitiveness.

Key Highlight:

  • It is hard to establish a workweek that enables companies to produce the same outcomes as a five-day workweek with consistent and greater productivity. 
  • A four-day workweek forces companies and employees to plan projects and set deadlines that allow them to meet customer deadlines.
  • Understanding the benefits a 4-day work week can offer the business.

Who Invented the 5-Day Work Week?

The five-day workweek originated in 1926 by Henry Ford, who closed his seven-day car factories on Saturdays and Sundays. He promoted this adjustment as a strategy to boost workplace efficiency and demonstrated that it benefited his business. Considering how many decades have passed with no change to how our normal weekday looks, many are questioning whether a Monday-to-Friday workweek still brings in the most productivity.

Interesting Fact: If you are wondering who invented the eight-hour workday, it was also influenced by Ford, who introduced these hours to his employees as policy.

Why Do We Work 5 Times a Week?

Companies have implemented the hybrid work model to boost productivity, and the benefits have been recognized. However, when asked how frequently employees have experienced burnout since the outbreak, 62% said "often" or "extremely frequently." Overworking employees consequences are becoming apparent. A study conducted by Sanford University established a definite association between overworking and productivity, demonstrating that overworked employees are less productive than those working an average or regular working week. It is evident that, especially now that the flexible 'hybrid model' of working is gaining traction, levels of stress and burnout will continue to rise due to the blurring line between work and home.  

67% of workers reported increased stress and burnout since the outbreak.  

Future is Pointing to Four-Day Work Week

In 2022, a non-profit advocacy group, 4 Day Week Global, initiated a series of six-month trials for over 130 enterprises in Ireland, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. These companies have been undertaking trials for a shortened workweek, and researchers have described the experiment as an "overwhelming success." The founders came up with the idea in 2018 while running their estate planning firm in New Zealand when they chose to transition their workforce to a four-day week and have been attempting to help others do the same ever since. Adam Husney, CEO of Healthwise, cited his success with the new methodology: "We've delivered products on time or ahead of schedule." I would argue that everything we can measure has been positive."

Four-Day Work Week Advantages

Top 5 Reasons Companies Are Using The 4-Day Model & Why It May Be The Solution For Many To Keep Both Employees and Consumers Satisfied.

Better Work-Life Balance

Employees reported feeling less stressed and burnout, indicating that spending an extra day with their families, trying new hobbies, and catching up on chores benefited their health and job satisfaction. Employees believe they are finally being treated as individuals in this new approach, which directly correlates to improved employee motivation.

Improved Productivity

As previously noted, when employees are overworked, their productivity suffers, leading to increased stress and burnout. Work quality has been found to improve dramatically when employees are given an extra day off to compensate for the higher effort associated with working from home. Sue Hamel, Executive Director of the non-profit EcoSuperior, stated, "It's not a cost-cutting measure; it's actually what I call a value-added measure." She noticed a noticeable improvement in the emotional and physical health of her employees and herself after their company introduced a four-day workweek.

Attract and retain talent

Many employees are now requesting a four-day work week as part of a hybrid/remote work model, placing pressure on businesses to improve working conditions to retain top talent. According to a white paper issued by 4 Day Week Global, a 20% shorter week makes it easier for businesses to attract and retain talent. Offering a reduced work week to current employees can increase corporate loyalty by providing individuals with a life more aligned with their beliefs. An employee from the 4-Day Week Global trials stated, "If we could be less time-poor, we actually might be able to live more according to our values."

Equal Workplace

During the pandemic, research among moms with school-aged children found that almost 1.2 million more mothers were unemployed than in the same months the previous year. Women cannot seek full-time jobs since they must care for their children. Giving moms more time to balance childcare and work obligations, a 4-day work week would encourage equality in the workplace.

Improved Meeting Practices

Fewer days for people to interact forces employees to form significant collaborations. Employees have been urged to undertake individual work at home and save collaboration for the office in this evolving hybrid work model. With less time spent in the workplace, production rises and fixed expenses fall, creating a win-win situation for all.

What Does This Mean for Your Company?

The way the workplace looks and functions are rapidly changing; with hybrid/remote workplaces and now introducing shorter workweeks, individuals are given more free time to spend as they like. 

This, in turn, has had massive positive effects on many businesses, so is this something that your company should implement?

  • Labor jobs are less likely to see a change due to the nature of the work, but office jobs are taking on a whole new definition. However, having a four days work week also increases vulnerability towards the business.
  • Furthermore, it is relatively hard to implement four days work week. There are many experiments on this, but it might not suit all companies.

Key Takeaways:

An important piece of advice that can be taken away from this is to value change and consistency in creating different ways to maintain productivity in companies. In theory, a four-day workweek is a good idea, but it is hard to achieve in practice.

Hassan Jaffar
Hassan Jaffar

Hassan has always been passionate about startups and has 5+ years in building products and creating designs. He is thrilled to share lessons learned from building companies' culture.

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