The world has -for the past 100 or so years -collectively and universally agreed to a 5-day work week with only 2 days off. This was actually an improvement to working conditions at the time as it was replacing a grueling 7 or 6-day work week.
It was most famously started by Henry Ford back in 1926 introducing a 40 hour/5-day work week for his factory workers. Other businesses quickly adopted the model until it became universally applied by businesses all over the globe.
After so many years of working that model though, is it perhaps time to consider a change to the system, would a 4-day work week prove to be even more beneficial for both employee and employer? Let us further explore.
It’s Actually Good For Business
Imagine that you as an employee (but more importantly in this context, as a consumer) have more free time on your hands. There is a very good chance that a significant portion of this free time will be filled exploring new activities, discovering new things to do, checking products online…etc.
So let’s say for example you start a new sport, now let us examine what this discovery would probably entail.
You will need transportation service to get to where you play that sport, or you’ll need to use your own car (which you would need to properly maintain at the service center). So that’s more business for transportation services or your owned car’s brand.
You will probably buy new sports wear (especially if this sport required a specific attire or specific gear such as a tennis racket for example). So that’s more business for the sports fashion and gear industry. Not to mention the expenses of the sport itself (such as club or gym membership fees, coaching/trainer payments…etc).
The sport you play might encourage you to introduce a new healthy diet to your lifestyle to get in shape. You’ll explore and possibly buy new types of food. That’s more business for the food industry.
Basically, people with more free time will inevitably consume more goods/products than others with less free time and the consumption of goods is the ultimate pillar that decides whether or not a business survives, let alone flourishes.
People will simply have more time to buy things and a stronger need to buy them.
What About The Decline In Productivity?
A natural question that comes to mind when exploring the notion of a 4-day work week would be the effect on productivity. Losing a full day’s worth of work can prove catastrophic to project timelines, it can introduce delays that are simply unacceptable in the fast-paced business world of today.
Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. The 4-day work week system would also incorporate longer working hours per day. The standard 5-day work week involves 8-hour workdays which results in a 40-hour work week. The 4-day work week would take the workday from 8 hours to say 9.5 hours resulting in a 38-hour work. That’s only 2 hours short, a negligible figure really when you think of the benefits.
The mass majority of employees will gladly put in that extra 1.5 hour per day in return for an extra day off.
Employee Mental Health
It is a known fact that employees produce their best work when they are motivated and in a good place mentally. Giving employees more time off allows them to properly disconnect from work and recharge their batteries.
Perhaps one of the very few wins we gained from the COVID pandemic was shedding some much-needed light on the importance of employee mental health and significantly eliminating the stigma surrounding this particular topic.
Companies were forced to acknowledge this aspect of work and while the measures being taken to address/improve employee mental health are still questionable in terms of effectiveness, it is nevertheless, a positive step in the right direction.
The Big Obstacle
Businesses do not operate in isolated silos; different business sectors are largely interconnected and co-dependent on each other. A typical company would normally be constantly connected with factories, suppliers and banks among other entities.
If one of those entities simply shuts down for a full business day while the others are operational, it will completely derail the business plan for the whole group and result in disastrous delays.
The 4-day work week would realistically only work if it is to be adopted globally or at least regionally by various business sectors as opposed to specific companies.
Another way to look at it though is that, if a company introduced a 4-day work week system, it will be a very attractive destination for talent from all over the market. People will jump at the opportunity of regularly having a 4-day work week with similar pay. Other companies would find it hard not to follow suit in order to retain their top talent.
There aren’t any clear signs on whether or not this could ever become a reality one day but one thing the COVID pandemic has taught us, it is our ability to completely overhaul the way we work. Working remotely was very rare pre-COVID but is now a crucial presence in all businesses. Is a 4-day work week next? Only time will tell.