A lot of attention recently has been on the proposal of a four-day work week for American workers. While a reduced work week has been tried in other countries—and at many US companies for years—the traditional five-day work week is still the standard model. A bill to make a 32-hour work week the new standard (instead of the typical 40-hour week) has gained support from workers, companies, and some in congress. Though a four-day work week has been proposed before, the idea has found a renewed popularity more recently as people transition in and out of remote and hybrid work and take advantage of emerging opportunities, changing workplace dynamics, and new technologies in the post-pandemic era.
While companies consider transitioning to a four-day work week for many employees, the benefits and drawbacks have to be carefully weighed. There is a wide variance in the kinds of changes companies in different industries would need to implement in order to maintain the same level of productivity and revenue on a shortened employee work week. Different businesses will need to make different adjustments. But the desire to adapt workplaces to a shorter work week is unlikely to wane as more and more American workers look to take advantage of the emerging opportunities in our changing workplace culture.
· Less stress for workers
· Improved home/life balance
· Improved sleep and well-being
· Fewer sick and personal days
· Fewer resignations
· Reduced commuting costs for employees
· Fewer childcare obstacles
· Greater ability of companies to attract and retain higher talent
· Enhanced employee engagement
· Environmental friendliness/smaller carbon footprint
Results of a sweeping survey on the effects of the shortened work week showed that the majority of respondents reacted positively to the change, reporting far less burnout and stress and a 65% reduction in absences due to sick and personal days.
Still, not everyone agrees that the shift to a shorter work week is a sustainable idea.
· Reduced productivity
· Difficulty maintaining the same level of compensation
· Compromised ability to stay competitive
· Possible reduction in revenue
· High costs of implementation
· Increased overtime costs
· Decreased customer satisfaction with fewer operating hours
These challenges are important to consider because they directly impact the ability of companies to stay profitable and afloat long enough for workers to reap the benefits of a shortened work week. Major changes to employee schedules and operating hours will likely require company-wide technology changes and modernization to be truly successful in the long term. Technologies that keep workers connected remotely and can track hours will help streamline the transition. Software that automates the routine administrative, clerical, and bookkeeping tasks mean that less employee time must be devoted to these processes—many of which run more smoothly (and with fewer errors) through applications that integrate with one another and sync data across multiple channels in real time.
Whether changes to the typical office work week become widespread enough to become a new national standard remains to be seen. However, more and more companies are trying out a four-day work week, and the more that adopt it, the more that will need to just to stay competitive and attract the best workers. Burnout due to high levels of stress continues to plague workers in all fields, and employee burnout has been consistently connected to poor productivity, lack of employee engagement, and low morale in the workplace. The problem, many studies are showing now, is that the five-day work week is really more of a seven-day work week for many employees. Technology, with all its benefits, can sometimes keep people too connected to their work, and for too long. The right balance between staying productive and incorporating leisure and stress reduction (and sleep) needs to be struck so that workers can maintain optimal levels of productivity and still feel happy and satisfied with their work.