The idea of a four-day work week has been gaining global support. With work–life balance receiving increasing attention recently, are four-day work weeks set to be the norm for the future? While we’ve moved forward in leaps and bounds from 16-hour work days during the industrial revolution, we still have a long way to go with regard to reshaping our attitudes towards work, productivity, and gains.

Is the five-day work week becoming obsolete?

The five-day work week is so entrenched in our minds that our lives revolve around it. Now, Australians want to take back more of their time and re-evaluate their relationship with their work life. People no longer wish to risk their safety with longer working hours, and the relentless juggling of family responsibilities with work has resulted in burnout and exhaustion. With remote work becoming the new normal for many, are four-day work weeks here to stay?

Over the past few decades, communication technology has enabled managers to reach workers outside work hours and over weekends. Many employees experience overwork followed by short spurts of ‘no work’ patterns that leave them with very little time for relaxation and leisure. Four-day work weeks may prove to be more fair and humane and allow people to do things other than work.

An increasing number of employers have had to cut down working hours and resort to government aid and interventions to keep their businesses afloat. There has been an increasing emphasis on employee wellbeing and mental health. The four-day work week is no longer wishful thinking; many influential people are starting to propagate the concept as the path to economic recovery in a post-pandemic world.

We will probably look back and scoff at the five-day work week in the not-so-distant future. The idea is already gaining traction with many organisations that emphasise productivity levels over the number of hours and days worked.

Key benefits of a four-day work week

It’s the responsibility of leaders to get the most out of their teams while preserving their mental and emotional health at the same time. They are fast realising that being present physically in the office for five days every week does not necessarily guarantee higher work output. On the contrary, it often results in exhaustion and boredom and adversely impacts productivity.

The four-day work week aims to achieve 100% productivity and 100% remuneration for 80% of the time devoted to work. Let’s take a closer look at why the idea of a four-day work week is gaining momentum:

  • Increased productivity

    Although the idea may seem counterintuitive, four-day weeks may be more productive as employees are likely to be well rested, committed, and happy. A research study conducted on Microsoft workers in Japan showed a forty per cent increase in productivity with a four-day work week, as employees took less time off due to sickness, burnout, or stress. Another large-scale study conducted in 2022 including 33 companies across Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland found increased revenue and productivity and reduced absenteeism, burnout and fatigue. 

  • Increased gender equality

    In the past, female employees were more likely to take time off due to childcare responsibilities. A four-day week helps level the playing field and offers more flexibility to women.

  • Smaller carbon footprint

    When offices work for four days instead of five, it reduces electricity usage, and employees don’t have to waste fuel commuting on five days. The net effect is reduced carbon footprint and less wastage of company resources.

  • Better work–life balance

    Employees are likely to engage better with work with higher levels of creativity and motivation. A four-day week allows employees to develop their personal as well as their professional lives without sacrificing either.

With the rise in remote work during the past few years, workers have proved that they can keep the wheels turning from home. It’s time to ride the momentum and implement more proactive, trust-based solutions that boost organisational and employee welfare.

ESN offers a versatile range of HR consulting, training and development initiatives designed to improve inclusion, efficiency, work output, and productivity while delivering valuable learning at the same time. Our courses include topics on stress, fatigue, challenging unhelpful thinking, positive psychology, communication skills, dealing with difficult people, workplace bullying, peer support, and many others that can help your organisation survive and thrive.

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