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3 Healthy Benefits of a 4-Day Work Week


 


In recent years, the concept of a four-day work week has gained momentum as a potential solution to various issues in the modern workplace. Advocates argue that it could improve employee well-being, boost productivity, and even benefit society at large. However, like any significant change, it comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. In my research, I found that people who work a regular five-day work week may encounter a variety of health issues, some of which are common across different industries and professions. Things like poor diet, as well as declines in physical and mental health, are at the top of the list. Would a shorter work week truly address these issues? There are many who think it may be worth a shot. Let’s discuss!

 

 

The Push

 


 If you are among the many whose main job requires 40 hours of work spread across a five-day work week, well then, I don’t need to tell you how difficult it is to give attention to responsibilities at home, family, and your health…all in the two days you have off from work. Some of us even work a second job on at least one of those days! Before we go into the benefits of adding an extra day off to your weekly schedule, let’s look at the history of the five-day work week. This is actually the result of early 1900s union advocacy to reduce the then six-day workweek, which led to the invention of the weekend. In the early 20th century, when the average work week in developed nations was reduced from around 60 to 40 hours, it was expected that further decreases would eventually occur over time, yet the majority of us still work five days out of the week, leaving little time for much else. I personally have extensive experience with different versions of a work week. In the 1980’s I worked in a data center for a health insurance company and enjoyed a three-day work week. Each week, I would do three twelve hour days. Although the days were long, I got used to them in a short amount of time, and the four days off every week was amazing! Years later, I worked for a company as a technician, once again doing the traditional five-day week. Feeling burnt out, and knowing how much better employee morale could be, based on my three-day work week experience, I asked management if there was a way that we try a four-day week instead.

 

This was met with many excuses as to why it wouldn’t work, and how the company’s owners would never go for it. A couple of years later, I was promoted to Regional Manager, and I found a way to sell the idea of a four-day work week, that would require my team to work nine hour days. There were several benefits that I put in my proposal, but the one that I believe was the main selling point was reduced overtime spending. They went for it, and it proved beneficial for the company and employees alike.

 

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, more companies are considering the idea, but in different ways. One of the more popular methods is working from home one day a week and commuting to the workplace the other four days. While this does have some benefits, it does little to give one more free time to rest or engage in more recreational activities. Other methods include adjustments in hours, and in some cases, salary. The fact is, for employers, and even some employees, this concept can be a hard sell.

 

 

The Resistance



 

Are there examples of companies that have tried implementing a four-day work week and found that it didn’t work? The answer is yes. One example is the case of Basecamp, a project management software company.


In 2020, Basecamp announced plans to transition to a four-day work week during the summer months, allowing employees to have three-day weekends. While the intention behind the move was to promote work-life balance and boost morale, the experiment encountered challenges.

According to reports, Basecamp's four-day work week trial faced resistance and skepticism from some employees. Concerns were raised about the feasibility of maintaining productivity and meeting deadlines within a compressed schedule. Additionally, the transition to a shorter work week required adjustments to workflows, communication processes, and client expectations, which posed logistical challenges for the company.


Ultimately, Basecamp decided to discontinue the four-day work week experiment after a few months. In a blog post, Basecamp's co-founder, Jason Fried, acknowledged that while the initiative had positive aspects, it also presented practical difficulties and was not sustainable in the long term for their particular business model and operational needs.

Basecamp's experience highlights the complexity of implementing alternative work schedules and the importance of considering the unique dynamics and requirements of each organization. While a four-day work week may be successful for some companies, it may not be feasible or suitable for others, depending on factors such as industry demands, client expectations, employee preferences, and the nature of the work being performed. Effective implementation of alternative work arrangements requires careful planning, clear communication, and a willingness to adapt based on feedback and outcomes.


So, what are some other reasons for resisting the idea of a four-day work week?



 

Possible Cons:

Potential for Reduced Pay:

For many workers, transitioning to a shorter work week may mean a reduction in hours and, consequently, a decrease in income. This could be a significant drawback for individuals who rely on full-time employment to make ends meet.

 

Employers may be hesitant to implement a 4-day work week if it means they'll need to adjust salaries or benefits accordingly.

 

Operational Challenges:

Depending on the nature of the business, adopting a four-day work week may present logistical hurdles. Industries that require continuous operation or round-the-clock customer support may find it difficult to accommodate a compressed schedule.

 

Employers may need to restructure workflows, redistribute responsibilities, or invest in additional resources to ensure smooth operations during the transition.

 

Workload Management:

While a shorter workweek can encourage efficiency, it may also lead to challenges in workload management. Employees may feel pressured to cram five days' worth of work into four, potentially exacerbating stress and diminishing work-life balance.

Employers must carefully monitor workloads and expectations to prevent overburdening employees.

 

The cons may be of some concern, but it seems to me, based on my own experience, that companies may be a little more open to this concept of a shortened work week, if the idea is packaged in ways that helps their bottom line, because as the saying goes “if it don’t make dollars, then it don’t make sense”. I find it interesting that before the pandemic, if you asked employers if it were possible for employees to perform their duties from home, they’d say no. However, during the Covid-19 shutdown, when companies were faced with possible collapse, most of them found a way to make it work.

 

 

 That is because it was good for the company. Now, where the idea of a four-day work week is concerned, many corporations will say that would never work. Perhaps it is because they think that giving workers an extra day off is not worth the risking the aforementioned cons. But we’ve fleshed out 3 fundamental benefits of a four-day work week that would be healthy for employees, and companies as well.

 

 

Pros:

Enhanced Health and Wellness for employees:

One of the most significant advantages of a four-day work week is the potential for improved health and wellness among employees. With an extra day off each week, individuals have more time to rest, recharge, and engage in activities that promote physical and mental well-being.

 

Reduced stress levels: A shorter workweek can help alleviate stress and burnout, providing employees with valuable time to relax and spend with family and friends.

 

Better work-life balance: Having an additional day to attend to personal responsibilities, pursue hobbies, or simply enjoy leisure activities can contribute to a healthier work-life balance, which is essential for overall happiness and satisfaction.

 

Increased Productivity and Reduction in costs for companies:

Contrary to common belief, a shorter workweek doesn't necessarily equate to decreased productivity. In fact, many proponents argue that it can lead to heightened focus and efficiency during the days when employees are on the job.

 

With fewer hours spent at work, employees may feel more motivated to make the most of their time, leading to improved task prioritization and time management.

 

Healthier employees could equate to lower costs in health care benefits for the company.

 

Societal Benefits for all:

A four-day work week could have positive implications for society as a whole. By reducing the number of hours worked per week, it opens up opportunities for individuals to pursue additional education, participate in community service, or engage in political activism.

 

Furthermore, it may result in reduced traffic congestion and carbon emissions, as fewer people commute to work each day. This is a huge benefit, considering the significant number of people who currently drive to work.

 




As a health and wellness professional, I obviously think that adding a day off to our weekly schedule that allows us to spend more time with loved ones and focusing on our well-being, would be a win. What are your thoughts? Whatever your opinion, we’d like to hear them.  

 

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