Get More Done in Fewer Days—The Case for a Four-Day Workweek

September 13, 2019
Author: Stephanie Ludwigsen

Four quarters is the quickest way to get to $1.00. In the same light, studies show that a four-day workweek could be the fastest way to get 100 percent production out of your employees while they are on the clock. Currently, a third of workers globally, and 40 percent in the U.S., prefer a four-day workweek. Last year, a company in New Zealand sparked thought in employers around the world when they overhauled the traditional workweek for a more progressive one. While the present labor market conditions boast 7.2 million job openings to only 6 million job seekers, a shorter workweek can be enough to shift the competitive advantage in your favor.

Four-Day Work Week

Perpetual Guardian

In 2018, Andrew Barnes, the founder of Perpetual Garden, conducted an experiment that reduced his employees' workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours. Essentially, he removed one working day of the week without decreasing employees' paychecks. From there, the study found the following increases in business production:

• Team leadership by 82%
• Commitment by 88%
• Engagement by 84%
• Overall work satisfaction by 5%

With the benefit of an extra day off, employees were incentivized to meet productivity requirements throughout the shorter workweek. This encouraged workers to waste less of their work time. Supervisors reported that staff became more creative, their attendance was better, and they didn’t leave early or take long breaks.

“If you say to (your employees), ‘look, if you do things differently, we will gift you this day off a week’, what they do is they change how they behave at work,” Barnes said. Trading off fewer hours a week at the same pay, for maximum effort while on the clock, is something that most employees would accept.

If employees can get all their work done in fewer hours, then what is causing them to slow their progress?

Please Do Not Disturb

According to a 2018 survey by the Workforce Institute at Kronos, employees are preoccupied.

• 78% said it would take less than 7 hours a day to do their job if they were uninterrupted
• 45% say their job should take less than 5 hours a day

Nearly nine out of 10 employees say they lose time each day on work-specific tasks unrelated to their core job, with 41% of full-time employees wasting more than an hour a day on inessential activities. In addition, 40% of employees say they lose an hour or more each day on administrative tasks that do not drive value for their organization. This extra time spent on various, non-core related job duties leads to overtime.

Additional time-wasting issues at work?
• Fixing a problem caused by someone else (22%)
• Administrative work (17%)
• Meetings (12%)
• Email (11%)
• Social media (10%)

According to the study by Kronos, full-time employees in Australia and the U.K. felt that they did not have enough time in the day to get the job done. Often, that leads to overtime — and a lot of it. The U.S. reports that nearly half of its employees (49%) clock more than 40 hours a week. Although counterintuitive, fewer hours worked appears to boost employee productivity.

Four Quarters

Fifteen percent of organizations offer shorter workweeks of 32 hours or less to at least some employees, according to an April survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. By working more efficiently, there is reason to believe that people can work fewer hours and get more done. Although a four-day workweek may be impractical for some careers due to their demand, now could be the time to test the waters and see if your company can handle a shorter workweek.