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  • The Merge

A Four-Day Workweek Could be the Key to Achieving Work-Life Balance and Sustainability

Updated: Apr 7, 2023

The traditional five-day workweek has been the standard for decades, but with changing times and a greater emphasis on work-life balance, companies around the world are beginning to experiment with a four-day workweek. The concept of a four-day workweek has been gaining momentum in recent years. It has been successfully implemented in various companies across the globe.


According to the landmark 2020 study The Future of Jobs by the World Economic Forum, two-fifths of the world's population will be working remotely as a result of the rapid digitalization of the workplace. It continued that many organizations would completely support flexible working.


Employers from Ireland, the US, Australia, and New Zealand participated in a series of trials around the world in 2022 that were coordinated by a non-profit group called 4 Day Week Global.


statistics that show benefits of four-day workweek
Most businesses that took part in the four-day week trial said it was likely they would implement it in future. Image: Statista via World Economic Forum


Benefits of a four-day workweek


1. Higher Productivity


Studies have shown that longer hours do not necessarily lead to increased productivity, and in fact, may even lead to burnout and decreased productivity. A four-day workweek allows employees to work more efficiently and effectively, as they have less time to waste on non-essential tasks


Thousands of workers took part in the pilot program, which was organized by the non-profit organizations 4 Day Week Global and 4 Day Week U.K. Campaign. The study's goal was to see if productivity could be kept despite reduced working hours and no pay loss. The trial discovered that the majority of the 61 participating businesses will continue to work shorter hours and that most employees were less stressed and had a better work-life balance. All while companies stated revenue remained stable or even increased during the trial.


happy employees enjoying in the office

One employee in the Irish trial said: “I guess I've been a lot more careful with my calendar. It is one thing in terms of planning, focus time or identifying my priorities for the work week… not accepting every meeting that comes in.”


Put simply, working a four-day week meant people got more done in less time.



2. Work-Life Balance


One of the most significant benefits of a four-day workweek is the improvement in work-life balance. With three days off, employees have more time to spend with their families, pursue hobbies, or simply relax and recharge. This can lead to increased job satisfaction, improved mental health, and a better quality of life. In turn, this leads to improved productivity and higher job retention rates, as employees are more likely to remain loyal to companies that value their well-being.


Nine out of 10 employees who took part in the global trials said they wanted to continue with the four-day week, rating their experience 9.1 out of 10.


People reported getting more exercise and more sleep on a four-day week. For families, the results from the UK study were very positive with the time spent by male workers looking after their children increasing by 27%.


Furthermore, the extra day off can provide employees with a chance to recharge, which can lead to increased productivity when they return to work.



3. Benefits to the Planet and Environment


A four-day workweek can make a lot of positive impacts on the environment. With fewer employees commuting to work, there is a reduction in traffic congestion and air pollution.


Additionally, reduced energy usage in the workplace and fewer resources being consumed led to a lower carbon footprint for businesses. A few companies from the trial wanted to assess the impact on their company’s carbon footprint.


Data from the trial showed a 10% decrease in commuting time falling from 3.5 hours to just under 2.6 hours – 27% lower.


climate protest

A report published in 2021 stated “shifting to a four-day working week without loss of pay could shrink the UK’s carbon footprint by 127 million tonnes per year by 2025. This represents a reduction of 21.3%, and is more than the entire carbon footprint of Switzerland.”


Moreover, researchers suggested that shorter work hours could translate to people adopting more sustainable habits and lifestyles. They noticed that there was an overall reduction in people commuting by car, from 56.5% to 52.5% of employees.


There were also other signs that people were more environmentally conscious. "A small but significant" increase in time was observed for household recycling, walking and cycling, and purchasing eco-friendly goods. They are more likely to engage in low-carbon activities like spending time with loved ones, enjoying outdoor activities, and sleeping rather than using faster means of transportation and eating packaged and fast foods.


An earlier study by the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that a 10% reduction in working hours cut an individual’s carbon footprint by 8.6% prompting lead researcher economist Juliet Schor, to argue that a shorter working week is key to cutting global carbon emissions.



Is a four-day workweek here to stay?


97% of the participants in the four-day workweek trials said their company should adopt a four-day workweek permanently. Employers expressed great satisfaction as well; in the UK, 92% of participants are keeping the four-day workweek.


Companies that participated stated that their global revenues were 37.55% higher than they had been during the same period in 2021. They also notices low absenteeism and the number of individuals quitting was slightly down.


Seven out of ten workers said they would require a pay increase of between 10% and 50% if they were expected to work five days a week; worryingly for businesses that do not support the four-day week, 13% said no amount of money would convince them to give up the four-day week.


It is safe to say that the biggest pilot program to date was a huge success in the UK. So much so that states and municipalities across the United States are considering ways to encourage more employers to give it a go. Introducing a new bill has been in recent talks in the United States and this bill could make the four-day workweek a reality in the US as well.



Writer's Thoughts


While the benefits of a four-day workweek are apparent, it can also bring about some complications. Firstly, it can be challenging to schedule workloads. Companies need to ensure that the workload is distributed evenly and can be completed within the four-day workweek.


While a four-day workweek can lead to increased productivity, companies may need to adjust their expectations and implement new processes to ensure that productivity remains consistent. This may require additional training or investment in new technologies, which can be costly for businesses.


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