Monday morning rolls around, and as you're sitting in rush hour traffic on your way to work, you ask yourself: "Am I really going to spend my entire week here?"
Well, workers around the world are starting to ask the same question.
In June of 2022, 70 companies across the United Kingdom took part in a 6-month pilot program experimenting with a 4-day workweek. At the helm of this initiative is a non-profit called 4 Day Week Global, and based on their findings, transitioning to a 3-day weekend showed nothing but improvements for the companies involved.
Now, keep in mind that the 4-day workweek isn't an entirely new concept.
In fact, over 100 years ago, in 1906, a factory in New England became the first place to grant its employees a two-day weekend due to its Jewish workforce needing Saturdays off to account for their Sabbath day of rest. And then, once the Great Depression started, legislation was put in place to make the 5-day workweek the standard rule. This framework has remained unchanged to the present day, but with the presence of COVID-19 and the need for remote work, companies feel that a new structure needs to be explored to accommodate the landscape of the pandemic.
Whether it comes down to a hybrid schedule with remote days or 4 straight days in the office, the dream of a 4-day workweek is one that seems as necessary as it does attractive to workers all over the globe. More importantly, the results from the UK experiment lend further support to why the 4-day workweek is a good idea.
The first indicator of how promising the 4-day workweek is comes from the initial trial run heralded by Perpetual Guardian (PG) in 2018—a New Zealand-based company founded by one of the leaders of 4 Day Week Global, Andrew Barnes.
Perpetual Guardian offers a full rundown of how the trial run went, but in a nutshell, both employees and managers of the company reported that the 4-day workweek experiment gave them tons of improvements to their workplace environment, behaviors, and relationships. For example, the results show that employees were even more efficient at their jobs, and their overall happiness also increased. In addition, when employees returned to work, their level of focus was heightened, and after the long weekend, many employees were actually eager and enthusiastic to get back to work!
Piggybacking off of the success of PG, Barnes set out to make it his mission to introduce the 4-day workweek to the rest of the world—the UK being its first big candidate to try it on a wider scale.
More than 70 companies around the UK took part in the 6-month pilot program of a 4-day workweek.
Basically, the parameters for the 4-day workweek mean cutting down from the standard 40-hour workweek to 32 hours with the same benefits and pay rate. Plus, with the widespread adoption of remote work due to the pandemic, some companies experimented with a hybrid work schedule of 2 days remote and 2 days in the office, or they allowed their employees to create their own hybrid schedule around what works best for their lifestyle.
Currently, the pilot program is halfway through its run, but already, statistics from 4 Day Week Global are showing that 41 out of the 73 participating companies are enjoying tremendous results.
So far, the success of the pilot program is a good indicator that other companies around the world should adopt this new routine. And suffice it to say, some major countries are following suit.
One of the most intriguing adoptions of the 4-day workweek comes from Japan, a country that's notorious for employees working themselves to unhealthy levels.
The work culture in Japan can be so toxic that the country has even created a word to signify the presence and unhealthiness of being overworked—Karoshi (overwork death). Due to the dangerous addiction and the pressure of work in Japanese society, Microsoft Japan actually launched a program called the Work-Life Choice Challenge in the summer of 2019. It was designed to give the company's employees the ability to choose a flexible work-life schedule that fits into their personal circumstances. For instance, employees struggling with making time for their families could spend multiple days working from home. If employees had certain obligations or previous engagements with doctor appointments or other health reasons, they could choose to come into the office at different times to accommodate their schedules.
At the end of the challenge, Microsoft found that their employees were generally happier with the new arrangement, and their productivity increased by a whopping 40%. As of now, the Japanese government is considering its entire workforce to transition to a 4-day workweek, hoping that the move will inspire its workers and strengthen the country as a whole.
In these countries, the government is subsidizing the trial period of the 4-day workweek so that employees don't have to take pay cuts during the process.
In Scotland, the trial period—which started in January of 2022—resulted in a huge boost in employee happiness, as well as companies enjoying major upticks in their overall profits. For Spain, the trial period launched in September of 2022, and results are forthcoming.
Iceland is a huge proponent of setting the stage for the 4-day work week by launching an experimental trial during a 4-year period between 2015 and 2019.
The government hired a third-party team to monitor the shorter workweeks for a wide variety of employees across different types of workforces (2,500 workers total). At the end of the experiment, the results were so positive that Iceland went on to adopt over 90% of its workforce to follow the 4-day workweek model—giving workers a better work-life balance and less overall stress.
Many other countries are in the process of implementing their own 3-day weekends, and as more results come to light, it's only natural that other parts of the world will fall in line.
Of course, there are potential pitfalls with a 4-day workweek alongside the many benefits.
The benefits include:
However, there certainly are drawbacks to having shorter workweeks that may steer companies away from breaking tradition, such as:
These are just a few of the pros and cons that may or may not come along with the initiation of a 4-day workweek. That being said, it behooves companies to experience these possible situations for themselves to learn how to counter them or to create new ways to alleviate any challenges. Undoubtedly, there will be a learning curve, but the potential upside to implementing a 4-day workweek is beyond any potential setbacks.
If you're already following a hybrid work structure or you're noticing that your team's morale needs a revamp, then transitioning to a 4-day workweek may be a good idea for you.
You can enact the same trial run that other companies are doing and implement a 6-month period where you track performance and compare it to previous quarters to see if things improve, stay the same, or decline. At the same time, you can allow your employees to curate their own schedules and provide you with feedback on how things are going for them personally and professionally.
Regardless if a 4-day workweek is beneficial to you or not, you can still test the waters to see if your company has the potential to improve growth and work-life balance while giving everyone a bit more freedom with a 3-day weekend.
And remember, if you do decide to scale back a day and need some extra hands on deck to pick up extra work, Fiverr has tons of talented freelancers who can work on a per-project basis. Whether you need some extra freelance writers to churn out some copy or you need a graphic designer to make a last-minute social campaign, you can easily find a skilled artist to get the job done at an affordable rate.