[Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer, via Wikimedia Commons]

Four Day Work Week Proven Right, Taking Over

New research supports the idea that the work week should only be four days, and businesses that have enacted the policy are already seeing a rise in productivity that has led to increased profits. 

CNBC reports, “More than 900 workers across 33 businesses in the U.S. and Ireland tested a four-day workweek this year, and none of them are going back to a five-day model, according to data from one of the world’s largest experiments to test the shortened workweek.

The six-month pilot, which ran for most companies from April through October, works on a 100-80-100 model: Workers receive 100% of their pay for 80% of the time and maintain 100% productivity. The initiative is led by the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global in partnership with researchers at Cambridge University, Boston College and University College Dublin.

Unsurprisingly, workers overwhelmingly enjoyed having an extra day back to themselves: They rated the experience at 9.1 on a 10-point scale, and 97% said they want to continue the condensed schedule.

Their self-reported levels of performance went up while burnout and fatigue went down. They had more control over their schedules and also saved an hour per week on commuting, even though in-person work increased throughout the trial period.”

Time Magazine noted, “The five-day week that most of us take as natural is actually less than 100 years old. Although British factories began in the late 19th century to tack a half day on Saturday to their workers’ day of rest on Sunday, the full two-day weekend as we know it was first adopted by an American mill in 1908, and didn’t become standard in the United States until the Great Depression.

Since then, a handful of countries and companies have made the work week shorter still. Although its legal requirement is 37 hours, Denmark’s average weekly total, for example, fell below 34 hours by 2002, and remains there to this day. But resistance to a more widespread transformation has long been the norm. “I published my first book on this in 1997,” says Boston College economist and sociologist Juliet Schor, who leads the research for 4 Day Week Global, “but back then was unable to find any companies willing to reduce their staff’s workload.” That began to change several years ago when a handful of companies began experimenting. “But nothing like what is happening now” Schor says. “Now, it’s actually a real thing.”

At the same time, many employers got firsthand evidence that their staff would keep up with work even when their work patterns changed. “The shift to remote work changed the way many employers started to think about scheduling,” says Schor, noting that the CEO of Healthwise, a Boise, Idaho healthcare company, told her the experience taught him he could trust his employees. And he wasn’t the only one.

“I think it was a real revelation to a lot of management that letting people work from home didn’t mean they wouldn’t work,” she says.”

The change in the way work weeks function has even begun to shape fast food. One Chick-fil-A owner has moved to a three-day work week. In an essay explaining his decision, he said “that when he opened his restaurant he wanted to “lead with generosity,” and wrote, “For me, that has two main parts: One is pay, making sure we paid a really competitive wage. And the second is time, to provide my teams with more of a balanced approach to the job. 

Traditionally, we had used the term “the gift of time” to refer to serving our guests in a quick and timely fashion. But we had always left employees out of that equation. My idea was to provide staff with this gift of time by creating a scheduling system where they would know exactly what days they worked for as long as they work here. 

From one week to the next, employees’ days off changed pretty dramatically, so I set out on a mission to see if I could create a more consistent schedule. What came out of it was the existing three-day workweek that we use now.

Now employees can look at the calendar six months in advance and know these are the three days that they work on any given week. Traditionally, at least at Chick-fil-A, that was never a possibility before.”

The website, Jolt of Joyful, reported that the store saw a tremendous jump in energy and effort from the change. There has been a “boom in job applications” since the change and now the owner “aims to do $17 million in sales this year.”

It seems like it’s only a matter of time before other businesses take the same approach. 

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