Business owners, do your employees work a four-day workweek? If you answered no, you’re not alone. The business world has evolved in many ways over the past few decades (for proof, just watch any episode of Mad Men), but one tenet of common corporate practice has held true: most workers still punch their digital time cards at nine and five, for five straight days. Is the traditional five-day workweek the best choice for your recruiting efforts, your employee retention goals, your budget or your day-to-day productivity? More and more business owners are arguing that it’s not.
Instead, they’re breaking the mold and offering employees the option of working four ten-hour days instead of five eight-hour days. In some cases, they’re even mandating it.
The Rise of the Four-Day Workweek
In 2009, Utah became the first state to institute an official four-day workweek for all state employees. The change was made largely in an effort to cut costs – on commuting and on utilities like electricity, heating and water. After a year, a financial analysis proved that switching to a four-day workweek substantially reduced costs, both for the state and its employees. According to Time Magazine, “The state found that its compressed workweek resulted in a 13% reduction in energy use and estimated that employees saved as much as $6 million in gasoline costs. Altogether, the initiative will cut the state's greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 12,000 metric tons a year.”
That’s no small change. After Utah went public with the results, many employers began implementing a four-day workweek in the hopes of achieving similar results. In addition to the cost savings, the four-day workweek brings with it a handful of other business benefits. For example, a ten-hour workday means the business will stay open longer, making it accessible to clients and customers who work a traditional eight-hour day.
Why Employees Love the Four-Day Workweek
The morale-boosting ability of the four-day workweek is nothing to sneeze at, either. Remember, by allowing your employees to work four days per week instead of five, you’ll be giving them an additional 52 days off each year. They can use those days to run errands, make appointments, visit their mothers (whom they see far too rarely), and indulge in some much-needed massages at the spa. When they’re able to do more things on their days off, your employees will miss fewer days of work, and their in-office days may be far more focused and productive.
Teresa Allen, a customer service rep for American Fidelity, told CNN that she loves the benefits of working a four-day workweek. “I love the arrangement of the four-day workweek,” she said. “I like getting to the office as early as I do, 6:30 a.m. The morning is my most productive time of the day, the phones are off until 8:00 a.m. and the office is very quiet. I enjoy having Wednesdays off and can focus on spending time with family and maintaining a home. It helps me with balancing stresses of being a family provider and full-time employee.”
When employees are satisfied with their schedules and are better able to balance their work and personal lives, businesses can expect higher employee retention rates. It’s just another reason more employers are adopting a four-day workweek.
They’re also doing it to give their recruiting team an edge when it comes to scoring the best talent. Job seekers are drawn to the idea, and high-level talent may see the added incentive as a deal-maker when they’re being courted by several companies.
Hidden Danger of Making the Switch
Of course, like all big changes, this one requires careful consideration. Although the potential perks are substantial, there are several drawbacks associated with switching to a four-day workweek. Here are just a few:
- Employees may struggle to find childcare that covers the extended ten-hour workday.
- Many workers may find it difficult to stay focused and on-task for ten hours at a time.
- Employees with disabilities or medical issues may have trouble adding an additional two hours to their normal workday.
- With more days off, more employees will be missing from your office every day. This could make it hard for clients to meet with reps or for team leaders to address groups.
- With fewer people at the office, other employees may be forced to pick up the slack.
- Those who’ve adapted to a 9-5 schedule may have trouble making the switch, especially if their children have activities that start when normal business hours end.
Your decision about whether or not a four-day workweek is right for your company will depend largely on your goals and the kind of people you employ. Are you in desperate need of a new recruiting tool or a way to lure innovative Gen-Y workers to your workforce? If so, making the switch could take your recruiting efforts to the next level. If you're more worried about retaining employees that have been with your company for decades and who are deeply rooted in their communities and busy with their families, then keeping the traditional workweek might be a better call.
Remember, any time you implement a big change in your company, you’ll make both friends and enemies. That's just how it works, so if you do decide to switch your business to a four-day workweek, be prepared for some strong reactions.