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4-Day Workweek: Everything You Should Know

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    A four-day workweek redefines the common 40-hour, five-day schedule by reducing the weekly number of shifts employees work. Versions of this concept propose four 10-hour shifts, while others cut the full-time workweek to 32 hours outright. While the four-day workweek is designed to enhance employee well-being, it may not be for every business. Read what you need to know before implementing a four-day workweek.

    Recently, the concept of a four-day workweek has made national and international headlines. While some employers claim it reduces burnout and boosts productivity, others claim it amplifies stress and compromises their organizations’ output.

    Even so, it hasn’t been widely adopted. As of 2023, Indeed reported less than 0.3% of job openings tout a four-day workweek.

    Unsure if a four-day workweek is right for your workforce? Let’s examine how the practice works and consideration from both sides.

    What is a four-day workweek?

    A four-day workweek is an approach to scheduling that reduces the typical five eight-hour shifts most full-time employees work to just four. This approach doesn’t always result in reduced hours — four 10-hour shifts would still yield 40 hours a week per employee.

    But 40 isn’t always the magic number. Some businesses like Kickstarter, the online crowdfunding platform, recorded an uptick in productivity and employee satisfaction by reducing its 40-hour workweek to 32. While most found the approach fruitful, it didn’t work flawlessly for every contributor.

    “Decreased working hours did mean meetings cut into focus time,” a former marketing automation manager at Kickstarter told Business Insider. “I welcomed the challenge to ensure my time outside of meetings was more productive, as I knew that being less focused meant I would be working over the 32 hours required of me per week.”

    Examples of a four-day workweek

    Over the last decade, a handful of companies have piloted a four-day workweek. Here’s how it affected businesses around the world.

    Exos, an Arizona-based performance coaching organization, once reported 70% of its employees experienced burnout. Plus, the company’s annual retention rate hovered at a lackluster 47%. To overcome this troubling trend, Exos tested a four-day workweek. The results were studied by Wharton School of Business.

    According to Wharton research, the benefits Exos gained were almost immediate. Annual turnover dropped to 29%. Burnout also fell to 36% among employees. Finally, 91% of workers reported being more productive at work, up from 67%.

    Alter Agents, a marketing research firm, did not experience the same. The California company implemented a four-day workweek in response to in-person restrictions. After 10 weeks, however, the firm’s CEO found the change fueled inconsistency and actually made work harder for many employees.

    “It became hard for people to keep up with what had happened when they were out,” she said. “We started to notice little things slipping through the cracks that didn’t hold up to our standards.”

    In 2022, Autonomy, an employment research institute, studied 61 U.K. businesses that implemented a four-day workweek. The participating companies didn’t just cut the number of shifts, but hours worked, too. Despite full-time employees dropping to 32 hours a week, the organizations didn’t reduce salaries.

    After the change, all the surveyed companies’ CEOs and managers said the four-day workweek had a “positive” or “very positive” impact on operations. And 82% of business leaders reported improvements to their staff’s well-being. Additionally, 50% of organizations cited lower turnover and 32% saw improved talent acquisition.

    Ultimately, 51% of the businesses in the study permanently implemented a four-day workweek. Almost just as many organizations found, however, that interruptions to their workflow were too numerous to afford adopting the practice long term.

    In mid-2022, Gallup surveyed 12,313 full-time employees about their average workweek. Among the respondents:

    • 8% worked four days a week
    • 84% worked five days a week
    • 8% worked six days a week

    Those who worked six days each week reported the highest levels of burnout. Conversely, respondents who had a four-day workweek showed lower disengagement, but average well-being levels and even heightened burnout.

    Employees who had a five-day workweek showed the highest engagement and lowest burnout. Previously, in 2020, Gallup found those on a four-day workweek expressed significantly greater well-being. By 2022, however, most organizations reported no significant difference in happiness between employees with four-day workweeks and those who worked five.

    Potential benefits of a four-day workweek

    Around-the-clock industries like manufacturing may have trouble implementing a four-day workweek, but it could be possible for other businesses. Here are three potential benefits for adopting it.

    1. Enhanced well-being

    For every 10 hours an employee takes off, Ernst & Young found it improved year-end performance by 8%. A four-day workweek leverages this by giving employees an extra day off every week.

    2. Higher productivity

    Limiting work to just four days per week could encourage employees to better prioritize their assignments. In other words, a worker could put more effort into tasks they have less time to complete. Keep in mind this also could intensify their stress, especially in high-risk, competitive businesses.

    3. Lower overhead

    While most employees probably wouldn’t accept a four-day workweek with less-than-average wages, payroll isn’t the only area ripe for potential savings. Certain businesses may have the option to reduce the use of basic utilities and the chance for workplace incidents. By extension, employees who commute less also would be likely to produce less carbon emissions from driving.

    Disadvantages of a four-day workweek

    While 77% of full-time employees told Gallup a four-day workweek would improve their well-being, successfully implementing it is another story. Here’s why the four-day workweek might not be an ideal option for every worker.

    1. The industry doesn’t allow for it

    Industries like the military, health care and emergency response don’t typically have the option to reduce working hours. Private-sector jobs may not fair better, especially during peak seasons. Essentially, some work requires a consistent effort that isn’t compatible with a four-day schedule.

    2. Extended shifts

    If reducing hours isn’t an option, a four-day workweek could extend the average, full-time shift by two hours a day. By condensing the time employees can invest in their work, extended shifts could spur greater fatigue. In turn, a company’s output and quality could decline.

    3. Limited time off

    To accommodate a four-day workweek, some businesses may have to limit time-off accruals to account for reduced working hours overall. This could make it difficult for employees to take the time off they need when they need it.

    4. Disrupted routines

    A four-day workweek could excite certain employees, but those who’ve grown accustomed to a five-day schedule — like those who have worked decades with the requirement — may prefer to keep it as is. Disrupting the flow those workers have established could hurt their engagement and trigger unnecessary stress.

    Regardless of which schedule you choose, any widespread policy change should try to keep every employee’s needs in mind.

    Four-day workweek legislation

    Currently, no law requires a four-day workweek in the U.S. Companies across several states continue to experiment with the concept, but not due to any legal requirement.

    As of now, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t establish a difference between full- and part-time employees. But the law does require overtime pay for nonexempt personnel who work over 40 hours a week.

    A new piece of legislation from the Senate seeks to change that. It proposes to amend the FLSA by requiring overtime pay to kick in after 32 hours — not 40. Keep in mind if passed, this amendment would apply only to nonexempt employees. Exempt employees — like those who exceed a certain salary threshold — could still work a 40-hour week (or more) without overtime pay.

    Even if the proposed bill doesn’t pass, employers should still pay close attention to similar laws that could emerge in the states where they operate. After all, it’s not uncommon for federal proposals to kickstart compliance trends elsewhere.

    How does the right HR tech simplify implementing a four-day workweek?

    Whether a potential law requires a four-day workweek or your company wants to experiment with the practice, you should always support any wide-reaching policy change with a truly single HR software.

    The right tech allows shift changes, schedule updates and adjusted pay rates to flow seamlessly into payroll and every other relevant HR tool. It should also make it easy for you to communicate with employees about a new workweek and empower them with access to the appropriate policy documents whenever they need them.

    Finally, the ideal HR software should include a tool that simplifies surveying employees and analyzing their feedback. After all, a four-day workweek affects employees the most; shouldn’t they have an opportunity to weigh in on the concept?

    Explore Paycom’s resources to learn more about HR trends, employee well-being and more.

    DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.