Achieving work-life balance has always been an endless battle among corporate executives. On average, a full-time employee in the United States works 1,801 hours per year, or 37.5 hours per week, which is more than other OECD countries. For example, Europeans work up to 19 percent fewer hours annually compared to those working in the US.
This has been the work culture since the end of the great depression, but today, with technological advancement, many companies have recognized a lesser need for an in the office workforce. The recent pandemic really forced this change, and the realization of how effective work from home is, will likely be permanent for many.
Another new working model that is gaining popularity is that of a four-day workweek. Amid the work from home situation, many employees have complained of no time for personal life and family due to long working hours and working during the weekend. A 4-day work week might help them get a hold of both their professional and personal life.
For example, the four-day workweek plan would address a significant issue in the UK labor market burnout. In 2017–2018, work-related stress, anxiety, or depression accounted for 57% of all sick days, with workload pressure accounting for 44% of these.
If you think that’s bad, according to Everyday Health, in the US 83% of workers suffer from work-related stress. US businesses lose up to $300 billion yearly because of workplace stress.
“Stress causes around one million workers to miss work every day.”
Only 43% of US employees think their employers care about their work-life balance. Depression leads to $51 billion in costs due to absenteeism and $26 billion in treatment costs.
“Work-related stress causes 120,000 deaths yearly and results in $190 billion in healthcare costs yearly.”
52% of Generation Z in the US have been diagnosed with mental health issues. There is a noticeable generation gap between baby boomers and Gen Z in terms of stress. While 52% of Gen Z has been diagnosed with mental health issues, only 41% of baby boomers have been.
“57% of people stressed-out are paralyzed by stress.”
Let’s look at the advantages of having a four-day workweek. With more free time to heal and recoup, staff would perform better, enjoy their tasks more, and consequently take fewer sick breaks due to high-stress levels. Several companies are trying to experiment with the four-day workweek.
I personally tested the four-day work week last summer and was more productive than I could have ever imagined. It is true that the downtime allows for better recovery, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I love what I do, and with a little more down-time I discovered that I love it even more. I am doing the experiment again this summer.
“Four-day work weeks have benefits for both the employee and the employer.”
Reduction of Costs
A four-day workweek can help everyone save money. The most obvious benefit is that operating costs would be significantly reduced because the office would be closed one extra day per week. Additionally, employees would spend less for commuting and would see cost savings in other areas such as lunch and coffee during the day. One day less a week can add up to saving a large sum of capital every month and even more throughout the year.
“Shifting to a four-day week eliminates 20% of variable overhead expenses like electricity and energy consumption.” ~US Energy Information Association
Increase in Productivity
A case study in New Zealand found a 45 percent reduction in stress and a 45 percent rise in total life satisfaction in a company with 240 employees. Not only did their productivity rise but so did their commitment to the organization. When employees are pressured and compelled to work more and more without any rewards, it becomes hard for them to remain productive. On the other hand, if they are provided with suitable rewards and leaves, they are motivated to perform better.
“A four-day work week could solve the high attrition problems some companies face in certain market segments, like IT Services.”
Increase in Employment Engagement
Employees have more time to rest and heal thanks to three-day weekend and an extra day off. As a result, individuals are less likely to be worried or take time off due to illness. They become more energetic and have increased attention spans. They become more motivated to return to their employment because of having more time to rest.
A real-life example of this are nurses working a four-day workweek. Nurses were found to request fewer sick days, plan 85 percent more activities for patients in their care, and reported higher health, mental well-being, and engagement in a study conducted in Sweden from 2015 to 2017.
Encourages Equality within the Organization
When it comes to adults who are unemployed due to childcare duties, there is a significant gender divide, with 89 percent of them being women.
Most of the time, women and single parents drop out of their corporate jobs due to less time for family. There are few allowances to help them in this regard.
The four-day workweek can be beneficial in these cases. Employees, male, female, and non-binary, will be able to spend more time with their families while managing care and job commitments with a four-day workweek, promoting equal establishment, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace.
Less Health Issues
The best advantage of a four-day workweek will be that the employees will have ample time for relaxing and getting back to work. Dr. John Ashton, president of the United Kingdom Faculty of Public Health, has suggested the health problems faced by office workers — obesity, sleep problems, high blood pressure, heart problems, and stress-related illnesses — are linked to too many hours sitting at desks.
“Rest and rejuvenation are essential for the overall well-being of an individual.”
Four-day workweeks have been shown to decrease stress and improve mental health. Since stress has been proven to increase risk of disease and decrease life expectancy, a four-day week seems like a logical next step for humanity.
A shortened work week can cut overall carbon emissions and save energy by reducing commuters. You will not only help save the environment, but you will also save money on your energy costs!
For instance, the state of Utah had a 13 percent reduction in energy use, and as a result, workers saved around $6 million in fuel costs, when it commissioned the trial for businesses in the state to try a four-day work week in 2009. According to findings, the initiative would reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than 12,000 metric tons a year.
Should You Try This?
The four-day workweek plan is practical and offers quite a few advantages too. If you’re willing to boost the productivity of your employees by giving them three off days a week, the four-day workweek plan is worth trying.
“An overworked employee is much less productive than an employee working a reasonable number of days per week.”
While just 15% of employers currently offer this schedule, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, the rise of flexible and remote working arrangement as well as advancements in technology and automation are pushing this idea toward becoming reality for more.
Companies pride themselves on perks and benefits for employees, but what people really want is more time for their family, hobbies, and downtime. In turn employers get more loyal, productive, and healthy employees.
Why are we letting a decision made 80 years ago of working five days a week, dictate our needs in 2021 and beyond?