Workers' productivity has increased significantly over the years; however, the same has not been the case with the wages earned. A report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017 reveals that productivity in 183 industries increased by 5% yearly between 1987 to 2015.
In contrast, the compensation to workers each year did not grow over 2%. This disparity between worker productivity and compensation, known as the "productivity–compensation gap," has led to the advent of a four-day workweek policy.
What is a Four-day Workweek?
A four-day workweek is a schedule set up by a company to enable its employees to earn the same pay while working only four days a week. In the U.S., for example, instead of workers dedicating 8 hours -five days a week, they can put in 10 hours - for four days (the same 40 hours) in a week.
On the other hand, some countries are already taking positive steps that will enable them to adopt a four-day workweek. An instance of this is the U.K., whose Labour Party has set a policy advocating for workers to receive their standard pay in a four-day workweek.
Advantages of a Four-Day Workweek
A four-day workweek has several advantages for both employees and business owners. Some of these benefits are:
1. Increased Productivity:
Microsoft Japan is an example of a company that gives its employees the advantage of a four-day workweek, and a three-day weekend. As part of a program called "Work-Life Choice Challenge," it allowed its workers to take all Fridays off in August 2019. According to the company, this trial was able to boost its productivity (sales per employee) by 39.9% in comparison to August 2018.
Similarly, New Zealand's trust management company, Perpetual Guardian, revealed that its employee productivity and work-life balance increased by 20% and 45%, respectively, after it began a trial of a four-day workweek. Based on this, a four-day workweek can impact a company significantly.
2. Reduced Stress:
Perpetual Guardian also stated in its report that successful completion of its four-day workweek brought about a 27% reduction in work stress levels. Therefore, an extra day off work without the need to go back and forth in traffic can help to reduce the work stress on employees. It can bring about improved mental and physical health.
3. More Free Time:
Employees can have more free time on their hands with another day besides the weekends or holidays. This free day can be channeled into rest or doing something more rewarding. They could take up freelancing jobs online, or dedicate the day to spend time with their family.
Disadvantages of a Four-Day Workweek
A four-day workweek comes with its drawbacks, and some of these are:
1. Reduced Productivity:
A worker's productivity can decline with more days or hours spent at home. A three-day weekend will most likely be taken as a time for rest; hence, the potential for more productive things to be done is low. In the same vein, employees may be less willing to attend to business calls or meetings while on their day off.
2. Not Suitable for Some Companies:
Certain employees need to be at work from Monday to Friday to promote the proper functioning of the company. If such employees are absent, it could lead to an in-completion of processes. An instance is the case of an employee that handles the customer support system of the company and needs to be sited five times a week or more.
Should You Implement a Four-Day Workweek?
The decision to implement a four-day workweek depends on how it benefits both employers and employees. If your company's needs align with that of your workers, then you can adopt this work schedule.
Alternatively, if you are uncertain about its outcome, you can try this work schedule for a few months and see if it affects the operations and efficiency of your company significantly.
Do People Want to Work Less?
The enthusiasm by workers for a four-day workweek may be mistaken as a need to avoid work entirely, but get paid. A 2018 survey of almost 3,000 employees in 8 countries has proven otherwise. The study conducted, asked respondents if they were offered the same pay, how many days would they choose to work.
The results revealed that only 4% of respondents chose the option 'None', denoting they didn't want to work entirely. On the other hand, 34% and 28% of respondents said they wanted a four-day workweek and five-day workweek, respectively, if their pay remained constant.
A four-day workweek can help to compensate employees for the long hours they put into their work every week. It is worth noting that it can help to cut costs while improving productivity and work-life balance. However, there are certain disadvantages of a four-day workweek companies have to be wary of. As such, they can first trial this policy for a few months to see how it impacts the company.