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Is the Four-Day Workweek Worth It?

Does the four-day workweek provide employees with flexibility without hurting a company’s productivity? It might—but there are some caveats.

A study of four-day workweeks among 61 British companies found that 45% of employers reported a slight or significant improvement in business after three months of piloting, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

Why it matters: Facing a tight labor market, more companies are searching for flexibility options that sustain productivity while increasing work-life balance for employees. The four-day workweek may be a viable option.

The data: “On a scale of 0 (very negative) to 10 (very positive), employers on average scored their productivity and performance over the six months study period at 7.5,” according to the Journal.

  • “Meanwhile, 39% of employees said they were less stressed than before the pilot started; about half reported no change.”
  • “Nearly half observed improvement in mental health, and 37% also noted an improvement in physical health.”

How companies did it: Before piloting the four-day workweek, companies analyzed their work schedules and identified unessential meetings, business travel and other inefficiencies that could be cut.

  • One company staggered its workforce between Monday–Thursday and Tuesday–Friday schedules, with each employee having a partner to cover the day they were off.

A lasting change? “After participating in the trial, more than 90% of companies said they would continue testing the shorter week while 30% planned to make it permanent.”

However . . . The Journal published a follow-up article (subscription) that shared reader experiences with the four-day workweek … and they weren’t all positive.

  • “I am a bit skeptical of all the supposed employee benefits,” said an employee who had worked at a company that had adopted a four-day workweek during the pandemic. Instead of working four eight-hour days, most people had to put in longer hours to make their deadlines.
  • Another reader who worked a four-day, 10-hour workweek said it wasn’t worth the longer days. “I like having that Friday off, but know I would have a better work-life balance if I worked five eight-hour days.”

What we’re doing: The Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s 501(c)3 workforce development and education partner, has been taking steps to learn more about flexibility options that work for manufacturers.

  • To see what some manufacturers are offering, check out this recap of a recent DE&I webinar. 
  • If you are interested in joining the conversation on workplace flexibility in manufacturing, email [email protected]
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