A 4-day work week in the United States is usually defined as a schedule where ten hours of work must occur during the day. Then, in exchange for the two extra hours above the regular full-time shift, the employee receives an extra day off each week. It creates a 4-on and 3-off schedule, allowing for a three-day weekend of a split schedule where you may only need to work two consecutive days before receiving time off.
There are many reasons why someone might consider transitioning from a five-day, eight-hour schedule to one that only goes four days. Work-life balance is the usual priority, but there are also structural and industrial concerns with automation that cause workers to put in less time as well. You might find yourself working 32 hours instead of 40 hours, which might result in a loss of pay.
Is it possible to complete the same amount of work in four days as you can in five? There are productivity increases to consider, whether the time spent at the office is the same or not. If it is such a beneficial schedule to keep, then why aren’t more people moving toward a longer weekend?
These are the pros and cons of a 4-day work week to consider.
List of the Pros of a 4 Day Work Week
1. More people feel like they can balance their lives with this schedule.
For two months in 2018, an organization in New Zealand conducted a formal experiment. The management firm decide that they would reduce their work week from 40 hours to 32 hours for every employee without reducing their salary. Then they brought on a pair of researchers to record the results of the effort.
1 in 4 employees felt like they could successfully balance their work and personal lives with the 4-day work week. Stress levels decreased by almost 10%, while the overall work satisfaction rates rose by 5% without a change in job performance.
2. There are higher productivity levels with a 4-day work schedule.
The productivity of workers during a compressed schedule tends to increase because employees feel responsible for the work that needs to be done from the lost day. This advantage is especially true for workers over the age of 40, who have productivity peaks at 25-30 hours per week. That is why some employers can reduce their work hours instead of forcing workers to go to a 4-day, 40-hour schedule instead. There are fewer time-wasting opportunities that occur in the workplace as well, which adds another level of production to consider in some industries as well.
3. Time usage is more efficient when working a 4-day work week.
When there are fewer hours to fill at work, then there is less time spent on inefficient tasks that may not lead to any professional development. There are fewer meetings, social conversations, and other methods of time wasting where production may not occur. Workers even take fewer breaks or use their personal devices to be on social media or play games. Because there is an extra day to enjoy off, the lower levels of stress allow people to stay focused on each task they must complete.
4. Higher levels of employee satisfaction occur with a shorter week.
Even if the employee transitions to a 4-day, 40-hour work schedule, there are higher levels of satisfaction for the worker because they have more balance to their lives. When you add in the lower stress levels that occur as well, more happiness occurs with the professional relationship. When employees are happy, then they engage better with their work. Not only does this result in higher levels of motivation and creativity, but it also improves the quality of their work.
This advantage can also lead to closer co-worker relationships, add loyalty to the worker-employer connection, and help families to establish roots in their communities through volunteerism because there is more availability. Having three days off each week instead of two can be an invigorating experience.
5. Teams become closer because of the 4-day work week.
Because there is less stress in the workplace, teams tend to work better together when they have a 4-day work week available. You have less time to waste on disputes, which means the goals of everyone tend to stay focused on the task that needs to be finished. That’s not to say that conflict completely disappears in this environment, but there is a greater emphasis on problem solving with this schedule than there is with the traditional 8/40 work week that you can find in the United States.
6. It helps the financial picture for families and organizations.
When you are only going to work four days out of the week instead of five, then that is one less day that you need to commute to work. Workers get to avoid the extra expenses of getting into the office, adding a little more to their salary. The environment gets a boost because there are fewer vehicles on the road creating potential greenhouse gases.
If you reduce your availability by a day each week as an organization, then there is an immediate reduction in your overhead costs. You can reduce your utilities and office maintenance fees by up to 20% since you are shut down for an extra day. Your electrical costs can experience an even greater reduction.
7. A 4-day work week can lead to higher levels of innovation.
When you either reduce the number of hours that people work or give then an alternative 40-hour schedule, then you are encouraging them to develop new time-saving methods. That helps each worker to begin looking for new, better productivity procedures and best practices which continue the surge in productivity. If you don’t account for salaries, a work-sharing program like this can lead to a lower unemployment rate because there are open hours that can be filled by another worker. There is also the option to have multiple workers to fill a standard one-person slot.
8. It could reduce family expenses.
If companies were to compress their 40-hour schedule into one that covers 32 hours without a change in pay, then families would see a reduction in their daycare expenses. There would be more time to spend with their kids, attend school events, or coach youth sports. When the UK looked at the reason when people were not seeking a job even though they were at the prime labor age, two million people said that childcare responsibilities were holding them back. Out of that figure, 89% of the potential workers were women.
Moving to a 4-day work week would promote a higher level of workplace equality. They would have more opportunities to balance their personal and professional needs. Even companies can benefit because there would be more expertise available and shifts could move to create all-week coverage for customers to enjoy.
List of the Cons of a 4 Day Work Week
1. There are risks to consider for the employer and employee.
If you decide to move to a 40-hour work week that covers four days instead of five, then the risks of financial harm and productivity loss are minimal. This problem occurs when there is a desire to cut the number of hours that each employee works from 40 to 32 each week. There is a costly risk to consider because the employees involved in this transition might not be able to meet their overall work requirements.
When Sweden conducted a 24-month trial that cut 10 hours out of the standard work week for an employee while continuing with a five-day structure, there were higher levels of worker satisfaction – but lower productivity levels. That means the structure was ultimately too costly to continue.
2. Some industries cannot participate in a 4-day work week.
There are some industries which must maintain a 24-hour presence in their community to ensure that they meet their quotas. This disadvantage can make it impractical to establish a 4-day work week. Some jobs just take time to complete, and there is nothing that we can do to change that fact. When France moved to the shorter work schedules, they discovered that workers were still putting in the same amount of time professionally each week. The only difference was that their employer was now responsible for paying the extra time as overtime wages.
Although the overtime helps to give the wages of a worker a boost without changing their overall schedule, that’s another expense that the company must pay. If you have too many of your people earning a mandated raise from a 4-day work week piece of legislation, then there may not be enough funds available to stay in business.
3. Some businesses might suffer from the implementation of a 4-day work week.
There are some businesses that operate in a space outside of the standard working schedule, such as real estate professionals, who would struggle to earn a living if they were forced to shift the number of hours that they work each day. This issue could impact the freelancers and those side hustle jobs that people work to make ends meet as well. Some industries benefit more when there are people in the office than they do when workers are out in the field or at home.
4. It could reduce the amount of money that a worker earns.
Amazon attempted to run a 4-day work week for selected employees, but it also came with a 25% reduction of their regular salary because 10 hours were cut from their schedule. Since that could affect their benefits status or financial health, the plan was not as beneficial as the company hoped it would be. There were also more schedule gaps and missed deadlines with this idea, which hurt the company’s bottom line.
Government offices in Utah had to switch back to a standard schedule after just 3 years because the lack of availability was too difficult on the public. Life doesn’t stop because a three-day weekend occurs on a Monday or a Friday, so there is an expectation of a response from customers. Companies that move to a full system of coverage lose the financial benefit of shutting down for a while as well.
5. This alternative schedule can provide child care difficulties.
If you are working a 4-day, 10-hour schedule to put in a 40-hour full-time work week, then trying to find child care as a parent can be exceptionally challenging. Many facilities do not offer help for the extra two hours because the goal is to cover the standard school schedule in each community. There might only be 1-2 providers that open at 6 AM and then stay open until 8 PM to accommodate your shift in schedule.
Although it does feel like there is a higher level of work satisfaction and time to relax when you work a four-day schedule, many workers who are putting in 10 hours per day see a significant drop in their productivity levels at the end of each day.
6. The 4-day work week doesn’t help exempt employees in the United States.
If you work in an exempt position, then there are no overtime hours for you to enjoy. You’ll earn comp time for the extra hours that you’re on the job. If you move to an alternative schedule, then there might be internal pressure to respond to messages or call into a meeting as a way to stay ahead of the work. Anyone who is a salaried employee will need to look at the alternative schedule to see if it would adversely impact your team.
Verdict on the Pros and Cons of a 4-Day Work Week
During the early days of the Great Depression, economic experts believed that we would reach a point in time by 2030 when the average work schedule for an employee would be only 15 hours per week. The idea of being able to earn a full-time income while only putting in a couple of days of work was an inviting a dream for people to think about while they were struggling financially in the 1930s. Real-life took a different direction, and the number of hours that people are working is starting to rise once again.
The perspective in the United States is fairly simple: if you can do the same amount of work in 32 hours that you can do in 40, then your employer may want you to do more work instead of less.
Only time will tell if the pros and cons of a 4-day work week will help this idea to take off. If working fewer hours is not an option for you as of yet, you might be able to work an alternative schedule that can get you that extra day off.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.