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Can a 4-day working week really boost employee satisfaction?

In the last few years, we are seeing more and more mentions of the 4-day work week. That’s not a compressed 5-day week, and it’s not a 4-day week with longer hours – it’s a working week where nothing changes, except you have the fifth day off. It sounds like a dream come true – a whole day less of work, a three-day weekend, and no pay cut.

The Guardian recently reported that 100 UK companies have signed up to make the new set-up permanent. A survey carried out found that about 95% of companies involved in trialling the 4-day work week reported productivity had either stayed the same or increased. In fact, results of trials worldwide seem to be positive on the whole, with only a handful of complaints, so can this model of work really increase employee satisfaction?

Pros and cons of the 4-day working week

  • Employees have more time off! Getting to fit more of the things they enjoy into their weekend means employees are likely to be happier overall, which in turn reduces their risk of burnout, and can help keep their quality of work high. All of this can increase dopamine, which is the motivating, feel-good chemical in the brain, which staves off mental health challenges.
  • Many employees juggle extra responsibilities outside of the workplace, but because they have bills to pay, they have no choice but to carry on working full-time. A three-day weekend can help them to slow down and relax. As long as they use the weekend to actually rest properly, of course.
  • According to Gallup, employees suffering from burnout are 63% more likely to take a sick day, and the Harvard Business Review lists workload as its #1 cause of burnout. Longer weekends will help to reduce the risk of burnout and sick days, because employees have more time to recover from the workload of the previous week. On the other hand, it could be argued that fewer days may make a workload feel even heavier, which leads us onto the cons of the 4-day week…

Cons of the 4-day working week

  • Many employees will still end up working the same hours, just compressed into fewer days. No matter what, participants in the 4-day work week are expected to produce the same amount of output.
  • Some may argue that many hours of the typical office day are wasted, so they can be trimmed out of the 4-days and instead make up the Friday where no one has to work, but others say that those “microbreaks” throughout the working day actually do have a purpose – recharging the brain in between tasks. In other words, time spent “unproductively” in the office is actually beneficial and needed for good performance. Expecting employees to work steadily with no lapses in concentration for the 4 days is unrealistic and unhealthy and puts people on the path to burnout.

What matters the most is designing a working week that suits BOTH the needs of the organisation AND the employees.

The discussion of 4 vs 5 workdays may very well be an opening to a conversation in your workplace. But we think the bigger issue is to have honest conversations with your team about the organisation of the work that needs to be done. The answer may not be the same solution for everyone, but should be one that leads to a more effective workplace, where more people thrive and grow.

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In conclusion, the four-day work week isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s easy to forget that shorter working weeks are also associated with difficult economic times, and they are not always a symbol of advancement. So with the pros and cons of the 4-day working week in mind, it would be far better to invest in your team by undergoing shooksvensen’s team development training. To learn more about how our training programmes such as Rewired to Relate can benefit each member of your team and make for a happier, healthier workplace, give us a call today and will be happy to talk you through it.

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