Companies With a 4-Day Workweek
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of the working world, especially the adoption of remote work. Now, many companies are experimenting with a new flexible work arrangement: shorter workweeks.
The push for a four-day workweek dates back to the 1970s, and several companies over the years have tried it. But now, with the pandemic, there’s been a resurgence in interest in shorter workweeks.
Several countries proposed and launched trials for four-day weeks during the pandemic, including Spain, Japan, Finland, and New Zealand.
Before the pandemic, companies experimented with the idea, as well. For example, Microsoft Japan launched a four-day workweek trial in 2019 and claimed it saw a 40% boost in worker productivity and 23% decrease in electricity consumption.
Ideas for a four-day workweek come in numerous forms. Some companies have tried four 10-hour days and allowed workers to take Fridays off. Other companies have gone further, instituting four eight-hour workdays.
Empire Resume will look at companies currently with (or experimenting with) four eight-hour workdays. We’ll tell you the pros and cons of four-day workweeks and show you how companies that have them have fared so far.
Benefits of 4-Day Workweeks
Companies and employees say the most significant benefit of a shorter workweek is healthier, happier, and more productive workers. During multiple trials of 4-day workweeks, research has backed this up.
Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand firm, launched a four-day workweek in 2018. Even though employees worked less hours, the firm found they spent 35% less time on non-work websites. Workers had more time off to finish household chores and errands, so those things were less likely to intrude on their workdays.
Two other benefits include:
- Better physical and mental health. Workers with shorter work schedules report having more time to relax, decompress, exercise, spend time with family, and take care of other responsibilities. This is especially true with working parents, who have had a tough time during the pandemic. All this adds up to better physical and mental wellbeing.
- Better for the environment. According to The Adecco Group, American workers drive 17% less on the weekends than during the workweek. So, if there was one less workday per week, it would reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. by 45 million metric tons. That number is more than the combined carbon emissions of Oregon and Vermont!
Drawbacks of a 4-Day Work Week
Advocates of shorter workweeks point out various benefits. But there could be quite a few disadvantages too. For one thing, not every industry and type of job is suitable for shorter weeks, which would make the perk unfair.
Knowledge (or office) workers would most likely benefit from four-day workweeks, and manual laborers and other types of workers may not see the gains. There are already existing inequalities between these workers, and a four-day workweek may make those inequalities worse.
Some industries and jobs, like retail, may also require a 24/7 presence, making shorter workweeks harder to implement. For example, if a business revolves around customer service, it would be harder to handle those problems with fewer people working and shorter workweeks.
Lastly, opponents of shorter workweeks say the biggest problem is the risk to companies could be expensive. Workers may be happier, but if they fail to meet work requirements, it could cost companies a lot of money.
Microsoft Japan’s 2019 experiment with a four-day workweek is perhaps the most famous – and maybe even the most successful.
The tech giant’s Japanese subsidiary closed its offices every Friday in August 2019 and found a 40% boost in productivity, along with other benefits. Full-time employees were given paid leave for the days off.
Microsoft Japan’s experiment had environmental benefits, too. The number of pages printed decreased by nearly 60%, and electricity consumption dropped more than 23% compared to August 2018.
The company’s shorter workweek was only an experiment, though, and it’s unclear if they’ll try it again or shift to it permanently. However, the experiment did catch the attention of the Japanese government.
Earlier this year, a Japanese politician began pushing a bill that would give workers throughout the country a four-day workweek.
Radioactive PR, an England-based PR agency, shifted to a permanent four-day workweek in 2018 after experimenting with the idea. And the results, according to the company, have been overwhelmingly positive.
The company (which has only 15 employees) has seen worker sick days and turnover dramatically decrease. On multiple surveys, employees have given the new schedule lots of praise.
Radioactive PR employees work Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with Fridays off. This equates to 31 working hours per week compared to the previous 36-hour week. Full-time staff has kept the same salary despite the fewer hours.
Lunch breaks were reduced to 45 minutes, and holidays were reduced from 25 to 20 as a way to even things out. Despite that, Radioactive PR employees get an extra 44 days off per year. Not too bad!
Other Companies with Shorter Work Weeks
As the four-day workweek idea gains steam, several other companies have experimented or shifted permanently to it, as well.
Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand financial services firm, ran a famous experiment and study of a four-day workweek in 2018 and 2019. As a result, the company made the permanent switch to a shorter schedule and has become somewhat of a blueprint for other companies worldwide looking to do the same.
Other companies to experiment with a shorter work week include:
- Unilever. The company is currently in the middle of a year-long experiment for 81 employees in New Zealand. Employees’ hours have been slashed by 20% without affecting their pay. The company’s managing director in New Zealand said the pandemic was a big reason they tried shorter workweeks and told BBC News “the old ways of working are outdated.”
- Shopify. The e-commerce industry has boomed during the pandemic, and Shopify has definitely benefited. It has also put more pressure on Shopify employees, which led the company to experiment with a seasonal, summer four-day workweek in 2020. The company is doing the same in the summer of 2021. Employees work fewer hours but are paid the same.
- Iceland government. The Icelandic government ran trials of a four-day workweek for public sector employees from 2015 to 2019 – and they were a resounding success. Unions in Iceland negotiated for shorter work weeks, and now about 86% of Iceland’s government workforce has moved to shorter weeks for the same pay or will soon gain the right to.
Will 4-Day Workweeks Become More Common?
The idea of a four-day workweek isn’t new, but it has certainly gained traction as the pandemic lingers on. Advocates for the future of work say increased flexibility is needed, including remote working arrangements and shorter hours.
It remains to be seen if a four-day workweek will become the new normal, but many companies worldwide are starting to test it. Kickstarter, the global crowdfunding platform, is yet another company to announce it will try four-day workweeks in 2022.
While shorter workweeks have drawbacks, advocates say the advantages are too good to pass up. And, of course, many workers would clamor for the benefit.
Companies that offer shorter workweeks may, for instance, gain a boost in recruitment. Sixty-three percent of businesses said it was easier to recruit workers with a four-day workweek, according to a 2019 survey done by the Henley Business School in the U.K.
If you’re looking to land a job with more flexible hours, let Empire Resume help you craft the perfect resume. Our professional resume services company, based in the greater Salt Lake City region, will develop a resume that gets your foot in the door.
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Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.