The rewards and risks of a four-day work week

For the Regina & District Chamber of Commerce

Provided by: OLIVIA LAWRENCE - September 9, 2022

The idea of a four-day work week would be considered a luxury for most employees. Working one less day a week would mean more time around loved ones, more time for leisure and less time thinking about work. All of these variables sound very appealing, but let’s break down the advantages and disadvantages of the shortened work week for a business.

Human Resource director Andrea Bartlett, who works at Humi, told Narcity that a shortened work week can be advantageous for employees by increasing productiveness, work-life balance and employee well-being.

Change Recruitment Group, a recruitment group in Scotland, said a four-day work week could mean happier and more committed employees. An additional day to rest could increase energy and decrease the risk of stress or burnout. It can also give employees more time to participate in activities and hobbies or spend more time at home, all of which could help an individual’s mental health.

From 2015-2019, a range of workplaces in Iceland took part in a four-day work week trial. CTV News reported the trial included more than 2,500 employees, which is about one per cent of Iceland’s working population.

The trial resulted in “overhwhelming success” which mirrored most of the benefits listed above.

It’s suggested that during the four-day work week trial, participants cut back on coffee breaks, chatter and non-essential meetings. Many said the Friday off was the motivator that kept them productive. Since the trial, 86 per cent of Iceland’s workforce have either moved to shorter hours for the same pay, or will gain the right to.

While there is a lot of focus on the advantages of a four-day work week, there are disadvantages as well.

BDO Canada, an accounting company, said employees would be working fewer hours in a week, but the same workload will likely be required to accomplish necessary outputs and deadlines.

A 40-hour week squeezed into four days is not a solution either, according to Bartlett. Change Recruitment Group said longer hours of work in a day would decrease productivity and engagement.  Bartlett said an employee continuing to work eight hours a day (32 hours per week) with the same salary is the most ideal four-day work week.

Therefore, a business would have to review if it’s possible for employees to do the required work in reduced time and if it’s feasible to provide their service one day less a week. If it’s not, hiring more employees would be needed. However, employers may not be able to hire more support.

It’s also important for a business to see what its clients are doing as well. If clients are still working a five-day-a-week schedule, a business using a four-day work week can run into problems.

Lastly, Change Recruitment Group and Bartlett noted how it’s important to analyze how a shortened week would affect general everyday customers, especially the ones who are used to the traditional work hours. Will customers choose not to use the service because reduced hours are inconvenient for their lives? Customer satisfaction is crucial.

If you are considering a four-day work for your business, it’s important to weigh out the rewards and risks. BDO recommends you look into advisory and consulting services to determine cost analysis and risk management.

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