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The pros & cons of a 4-day work week, every week

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Next to unlimited vacation time, a four-day work week is a fantasy many workers entertain, particularly on Mondays. We Americans love our 3-day weekends and the extra time they provide to enjoy family and friends, and leave the workplace behind for an extra day.

Many working people experienced the freedom of working remotely for the first time during the pandemic. A survey by Flexjobs showed that 65% of people working remotely want to continue doing so, and 58% of the people surveyed said they would look for a new job if they would have to return to the office.

This newfound freedom has also stimulated positive momentum for the four-day work week. In a poll of more than 23,000 people conducted by YouGovAmerica, 67% said that if they were employed full-time and their pay wouldn’t be changed, they would prefer to have a four-day work week with 10-hour days.

But is it the solution they think it is? Would there be less employee burnout and happier employees? Or would worker productivity decrease and customer satisfaction levels suffer?

Let’s look at the pros and cons of a four-day work week, and you can decide if it merits consideration where you work.

Pros of a 4-day work week for workers

Aside from the recurring luxury of a long weekend, there are some benefits to working four 10-hour days.

  • Reduced stress: It’s been estimated two-thirds of workers experience burnout on the job, leading to emotional, mental, and physical distress. Fatigue is a significant factor in burnout; having an extra day to recharge their batteries could help to alleviate job-related pressure.
  • Better work-life balance: Workers have long complained about not having a healthy work-life balance and how important it is for maintaining solid relationships outside of work. They believe that the extra day would allow them to spend more time with friends and family, enjoy hobbies, and engage in more leisure activities.
  • Increased happiness at work: It’s no secret that the number one reason people leave a job isn’t money; it’s because they feel their employer doesn’t care about them as a person, diminishing their sense of well-being. Employees offered the flexibility of a four-day work week may feel more valued, leading to greater productivity and increased job satisfaction.

[ Related: 7 healthy work-life balance tips to follow throughout your career ]

Cons of a 4-day work week for workers

While a four-day work week has its advantages, there are also some drawbacks.

  • Childcare: Daycare centers are usually open from 8 am until 6 pm. A 10-hour workday would typically end after many facilities had closed or would be charging very high rates for after-hours care.
  • Long hours: Not every worker has the stamina for a 10-hour workday. Fatigue can be a factor in reduced productivity, as well as adversely affecting mood and overall attitude.
  • Customer service problems: If careful and precise scheduling isn’t done, customers and clients can become frustrated and upset if employees aren’t there to respond to issues during regular working hours five days per week. This increases employee stress and can adversely affect the company’s bottom line.
  • Negative impact on teams and projects: If workers’ days off aren’t synchronized, it becomes challenging to schedule meetings and manage projects. This can lead to employees feeling pressured to call in during days off so they don’t miss out on important news and updates, or appear to be lacking commitment.

[ Related: How much does daycare cost? Probably more than you think ]

How would a 4-day work week impact employers?

We’ve been looking at the pros and cons of a four-day work week mainly from the worker’s perspective. Now, let’s consider the good and the bad from the employer’s point of view.

  • Increased productivity: Microsoft Japan experimented in 2019 with a four-day work week, and productivity jumped 40 percent. This is proof that a rested worker is not only more productive, but they positively impact their co-workers’ work life and company profitability.
  • Better recruitment: A four-day work week, along with remote work, grabs the attention of job-seekers. Again, it comes down to our propensity for rest and relaxation and the 3-day weekend. All things being equal, most job candidates will choose a company offering a four-day work week over one that isn’t.
  • Improved retention: It’s not only extra money and feeling unappreciated that lure employees away; it’s also flexibility, which Gen Z sees as more important than health benefits and is much more likely to keep them in a job longer.
  • Reduced absences from work: Employees with an extra day off have more time to tend to personal matters, like doctor’s office visits and getting their auto worked on. Many employees working the traditional work week often use sick days for personal needs.

However, there is a pay restriction employers need to consider. Eight states, including Alaska, Nevada, and California, mandate that employees working more than eight hours in a single day be paid overtime, which would cause employers in those states to pay a non-exempt employee eight hours of overtime each week.

Not only are progressive employers like Microsoft employing a four-day work week, but so are many others both in the U.S. and abroad. Here’s a list of companies that have moved away from the traditional five day workweek.

Companies considering a four-day work week would do well to gauge employee preferences through a survey. They may find that their employees don’t even want a shorter workweek and have potential conflicts and challenges that would actually increase their stress levels. A trial run followed up by another survey would be helpful to collect feedback and see if it truly benefits their employees and their business.

Is a 4-day work week right for you?

You’ve seen the pros and cons for workers and employers. If you haven’t yet been given the choice of whether to participate in a four-day work week or not, this article will hopefully be food for thought for you.

Remember, a four-day work week isn’t possible for some businesses. Smaller companies may not be able to conduct daily business with fewer people at work on a given day, and some industries, like healthcare or transportation, may not have the ability to adjust schedules or hire additional workers to fill the extra days.

The information and content provided herein is for educational purposes only, and should not be considered legal, tax, investment, or financial advice, recommendation, or endorsement. Breeze does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, reliability or usefulness of any testimonials, opinions, advice, product or service offers, or other information provided here by third parties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

— Published December 27, 2021
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