- Global movement. In June, thousands of employees across 70 companies in Britain started the first day of a four-day workweek, as part of a pilot program organized by the nonprofit groups 4 Day Week Global and 4 Day Week UK Campaign, and Autonomy, an organization that studies the impact of labor on well-being
- Companies are hesitant. Although conversations continue to grow, a WorldatWork pulse poll revealed that 75% of respondents said their organization was not considering implementing a four-day workweek.
- Pros and cons. Companies that have implemented a four-day workweek show increased productivity and improved work/life balance, but there are some challenges, such as the issue of rewards and decreased work coverage.
- More studies needed. Data-driven decisions could encourage more companies to implement a four-day workweek.
June, thousands of employees across 70 companies in Britain started the first
day of a four-day workweek, as part of a pilot program organized by the
nonprofit groups 4 Day Week Global and 4 Day Week UK Campaign, and Autonomy, an
organization that studies the impact of labor on well-being.
to the New
York Times, researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and
Boston College will assess its effect on productivity and quality of life over
a six-month trial and announce results in 2023.
More than 3,300 workers in banks,
marketing, health care, financial services, retail, hospitality and other
industries in Britain are taking part in the pilot, the organizers said.
Joe Ryle, the UK campaign director, told
the Times that data would be collected through interviews and staff
surveys, and through the measures each company uses to assess its
Speaking with WorldatWork, Ryle said
feedback so far has been positive, while noting that it’s still early in the
pilot phase. In the end, the goal of the program is to have the majority of the
companies fully adopt a four-day workweek and help make a case for government
intervention, so it can be a “reality for everyone.”
American trial already started in April of this year, with 38 companies in
the U.S. and Canada on board. Participating organizations include crowdfunding
platform Kickstarter and a number of tech companies. In October, more companies
in the U.S. and Canada are expected to join the global campaign. Sign-ups are
currently taking place for the first phase of the pilot program, which includes
workshops, mentoring, networking and access to research.
this an indication that a four-day workweek will become more common in the
workplace? According to a recent WorldatWork
pulse poll, that might not be the case.
poll was conducted over a 14-day period starting on June 13, where a total of
203 responses were received. Seventy-five percent of respondents said their
organization was not considering implementing a four-day workweek. The top barriers
included management not being onboard (52%), business needs being missed (47%),
and unable to fairly implement across roles (39%).
A Risky Move
conversations around a four-day workweek are increasing, some U.S. employers
are still reluctant to embrace the idea.
know that innovative rewards approaches help employers to differentiate
themselves but typically employers want to do so in a manner that manages and
controls risk to business operations,” said Alicia Scott-Wears, director of
total rewards content at WorldatWork.
Amato, a senior client partner at Korn Ferry, said the hesitation could be due
“Big companies don’t move
quickly,” she said. “There’s risk aversion and the question of whether all of
the work can get done. There’s also not widespread proof of concept that a four-day
workweek will be effective. In addition, it’s a long-standing U.S. belief that
the more we work, the more valuable we are.”
Even lawmakers are hitting dead
May, a proposal from California Democrats to institute a statewide four-day
workweek for hourly employees was shelved. According to the Wall
Street Journal, Evan Low, the Democratic state assembly member who
co-wrote the proposed legislation, said the bill failed to advance after the
California State Assembly’s Labor and Employment Committee declined to set it
for a policy hearing, effectively ending the bill’s chances of progressing in
the current legislative session.
WSJ reported that the proposal would have required private-sector
employers with more than 500 employees to pay hourly workers overtime after
logging more than 32 hours a week. California Democrats introduced the bill
earlier this year after a number of recent corporate experiments with a
decided against advancing the bill, given there was too little time to fully
study its implications before taking the next legislative step, Low said.
it’s not impossible.
Amato shared that Korn Ferry worked
with a national retailer on a project to enhance employee retention while still
being cost neutral. When corporate employees were asked if they would prefer a
pay increase or a four-day, 40-hour workweek (with the same responsibilities),
they were willing to trade off $830/annually in exchange for the reduced work
The four-day, 40-hour
workweek was by far the most popular option with employees — providing more
than $300 additional value over even a potentially more flexible daily schedule
to be negotiated with managers, such as working off-cycle hours.
Part of the value to
employees of the four-day work week, Amato said, is that all their colleagues are off at the same
time, so work does not “pile up” during the time that they have off. Korn Ferry
saw similar patterns with other clients, in terms of employees valuing paid
corporate shutdowns (often at the end of December or over the summer) even more
than the equivalent number of additional paid vacation days.
In Broken Bow, Okla., a Tyson Foods plant started a four-day
workweek in January, with good
results, while Tyson Foods plants in New
Holland, Pa. started offering a three-day workweek that pays employees for the
27 hours they work (and the other nine hours they don’t). The total of 36 hours
per week makes them full-time employees, entitled to an array of benefits, most
notably health insurance — medical, vision and dental, according to LancasterOnline.
or not a four-day workweek is effective remains to be seen, but in today’s environment, there
are some pros for adopting the model.
“Workers are experiencing
burnout and diminished productivity like never before,” Amato said. “If we
stepped back and looked at the type of tasks we are doing, most would agree
there are some efforts that really don’t produce reward. If adopting a four-day
workweek, an analysis of focusing on worthwhile efforts, while letting
non-worthwhile efforts go could actually make us more productive in the long
Still, Amato also sees challenges
that could arise.
“For many professionals, our
jobs aren’t even doable during a five-day workweek, much less a four-day
workweek,” she said. “Then, there is the issue of rewards. Would workers keep
100% of their salary/benefits? Then, there’s the issue of the ‘haves’ vs. the ‘have
nots.’ What about those who can’t work a shortened schedule, such as clinical
staff who don’t have [that] option? There is the option to stagger employees’
days off, but that could impede collaboration as you may need an immediate
answer from a colleague, but they have the day off. Also, client needs may
arise when people are away from the office, leaving that need unfulfilled or
the worker having to put time in when they are supposed to be away.”
Overall, those in HR should continue to
keep an eye on programs like the 4 Day Week Global Campaign.
is great that these studies are occurring as there has been talk of growing the
four-day workweek concept for years and it keeps being revisited,” said
Scott-Wears. “Perhaps the outcome of these studies will help give the evidence
needed for data-driven decisions to implement a four-day workweek in more
“Those that have experimented with it have mostly reported positive findings including lowered employee stress, better ability for employee to balance home and work life and all without sacrificing productivity; that’s some well-rounded winning for an employer in a tight labor market.”