Can’t Afford a 4-day Workweek? Try a 35-hour One Instead

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4-day workweeks — it’s the trend every worker is quietly rooting for. The concept is simple: one less day of work a week without any changes to remuneration, benefits or workload. Yes, workload. That means doing 100% of the work in 80% of the time. That’s if you want to keep 100% of the pay.

Proponents of four-day workweeks say that this should be possible thanks to transformative technologies such as artificial intelligence, better management techniques (e.g., not everything needs a Zoom meeting) and boosted personal productivity that stems from a better work-life balance.

These proponents are also amassing a substantial body of evidence that not only proves the feasibility of the four-day workweek but also shows workers to become more satisfied and loyal. That’s a powerful benefit to companies in a time when rampant worker burnout and disengagement may be costing the economy nearly $2 trillion in lost productivity.

One recent four-day workweek pilot program featuring 41 US and Canadian companies saw both worker satisfaction and business revenue go up. None of the participating companies had a desire to return to a 5-day workweek.

A larger trial in the UK saw virtually identical results, with 92% of participating companies opting to continue with the four-day model post-pilot for the same reasons as above – greater worker satisfaction and a 35% average increase in revenue. A similar story goes for Spain and South Africa. Plus, Portugal, Brazil, Germany and other countries that are running trials right now are likely to corroborate these findings further.

Related: Want a 4-Day Workweek? This Scheduling Strategy is the First Step

Too radical of a change?

For some businesses, however, letting a fifth of their working week go may be too hard a pill to swallow. And there’s no denying it — it’s a radical shift.

The business world is in step with a 5-day workweek, and whether it’s customer expectations or communication with partners, operations can get messy if you find yourself out of tune. Moreover, startups and other high-growth companies that already expect 120% from their employees on a regular day risk completely overwhelming their people by shortening the week.

This is to say nothing of shift workers or entire industries that simply don’t currently have the flexibility to adapt. Nearly a third of UK businesses find a four-day workweek infeasible, with the manufacturing, human resources, and travel sectors being the most pessimistic.

It’s not all or nothing

Let’s be real — nobody has any illusions about businesses suddenly adopting a four-day workweek en masse in the coming years, no matter how many positive test runs make the headlines. Rather, the message that should be gleaned from all these studies is that there’s an overwhelmingly positive response to shortened workweeks that typically translates to improved business performance.

Many businesses are taking an incremental approach to tapping into these benefits without undermining daily operations. Instead of going from a standard 40-hour week to a 32-hour one, they’re taking the middle road, opting for 35 — or 36-hour workweeks.

These can come in various forms:

  1. 7-hour work days. 7 hours a day, five days a week. This is how we do it at DeskTime, and the practice has been received positively by the team.
  2. Summer Fridays. Fridays are half-days. This is a popular policy during the summer months, hence the name.
  3. Staggered Fridays. Nine work days a fortnight, or taking every second Friday off. Allows for alternating shifts, e.g., in customer support.

Working four fewer hours a week sounds less radical than eliminating an entire day. For most white-collar workers, that’s equivalent to cutting out two meetings, which is not only doable but maybe dearly welcomed.

Indeed, many companies looking to adopt four-day or even 4.5-day workweeks set their crosshairs on reducing and optimizing meetings. Simply following meeting best practices — no time overruns, everyone arriving prepared, and clear processes — can help reclaim a sizable chunk of wasted hours. The promise that it’s their own free time that they’re reclaiming is a good incentive for workers to take these best practices seriously.

Every company I’ve talked to that has attempted shortened workweeks in one form or another immediately references a notable drop in employee turnover. Hiring also becomes easier, and the employees are happier. And others have had similar positive experiences, too.

Related: That 9-to-5 Job You Hate Isn’t As Safe As You Think

A step closer to 4-day workweeks

As a CEO, I was skeptical when I heard that four-day workweeks were trending. Now, after my experience with a 35-hour workweek, I can definitely see it working. I still hear and understand the counterarguments of other business leaders, but I’ve learned that they’re not insurmountable obstacles. It takes work, adaptation, and patience.

Shifting to a shortened workweek cannot be a snap decision. Even in the various national trials, the shift is typically preceded by a transitional period guided by experts who prepare the company and workers regarding expectations and practicalities. Get it wrong, and your transition to a four-day workweek may have the opposite effect — an overworked team struggling and failing to cram everything into four days, leading to heightened stress levels that fast-track burnout.

But get it right – and you’ll see it in your business results.

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