How many times this week have you heard “I could get used to a four day week?” Let’s face it, a shorter week feels far less daunting and much more manageable. It’s a shame we won’t be able to experience this again until the end of August…
But what if this far-off dream became an every week reality? Numerous studies have actually found that a four day working week might be a beneficial structure for companies and employees to adopt. But how exactly?
It may sound crazy, but if employees work less hours, they get more done. When you come into work on Monday, you know that you have five days to complete your work, so after you’ve done a couple of things the temptation of a break seems well deserved – after all, what’s 10 minutes out of 40 hours? But, when you’ve only got four days to do everything you previously had five days to do, these breaks are no longer viable or necessary.
Data compiled by The Guardian shows that in countries where the average number of weekly hours is greater, the productivity of employees declines. For example, workers in Greece work an average of 42.2 hours a week, the highest in Europe, but their ‘productivity index per hours worked’ is only 76.3. On the other end of the spectrum, the average number of working hours in the Netherlands is 30.5 and their productivity index is 136.5. So it seems when you have less time to work, you waste less time at work.
It’s not just short-term productivity that increases but, by implementing a four day week, you can cut down on the burnout that affects long term productivity. Sara Robinson found that those who work more than 40 hour weeks became less and less productive as weeks went on, becoming more tired and more likely to make mistakes or to forgo work entirely and catch up on the latest offerings from the Mail Online. When it comes to working hours, science tells us less is more.
Staff attraction and retention
In order to attract the best talent, your company needs to offer a competitive benefits package, and what is more attractive to a potential candidate than a three day weekend? In fact, LinkedIn’s Winning Talent survey highlighted the importance of a flexible working scheme as over one third of participants said that they would be persuaded to take a job if the company offered a less rigid working schedule.
Not only will you attract new talent, but a shorter working week will aid with talent retention. In the UK, 57% of people would support the introduction of a four day week with 71% saying that it would make Britain happier, a YouGov poll found. Clearly, there is a high demand for a shorter work week so companies that offer it have much higher rates of talent retention. Jay Love, the former CEO of Slingshot SEO, implemented a four day work week in his company and found that “employee retention literally soars.”
Not having your alarm rudely wake you up at 6am can have its benefits too. Sleep deprivation supresses the immune system, so an extra lie in a week could have some health benefits – the National Sleep Foundation have found that sleep is the best prevention to the cold, for instance. Granted, on your extra day off you may find yourself substituting extra sleep for extra beer, but fear not, whilst alcohol isn’t going to help your immune system apparently there’s an (amazing) chemical in hops that fights against the cold virus so you’re covered on both bases!
A four day week may not only benefit employee’s physical health but also their mental health. Professor John Ashton, the president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, has noted that the stress caused by a high intensity five day week has a notable impact on mental health. With work related stress already costing Britain 10.4 million working days a year, a shorter week could reduce the impact of an intensive career.
Congratulations, your office bills are now 20% cheaper. One extra day a week without paying for lights, heating, cleaning staff all contribute to increasing your company profit. In El Paso, Texas, the employees of City Hall worked a four day week as the state wanted to save money on utilities during the recession and they found that they saved over $400,000 a year!
But could the 4 day week ever really become a cultural norm? Perhaps it’s been too long now and having an extra day off per week is an idea that is simply too farfetched to ever take shape in reality. But, when the 5 day week was introduced by Henry Ford in 1926, this was seen as revolutionary by his peers. Ford didn’t implement the 40 hour model altruistically, but to reduce the high turnover rate of his staff who couldn’t last through the 16 hour shifts. With this in mind, perhaps a three day weekend isn’t impossible after all!
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