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Could a four-day workweek become the new norm?

11/7/2022

working day, work day, working week, workweek, employ, job, employment

The current working world is more flexible than it's ever been. COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and stay-at-home orders resulted in people working from home. For most full-time, permanent employees, remote working was completely unchartered territory. While many employers were skeptical about how efficiently their workers would be able to work off site, most found that their teams stayed as productive as they had been in the office, sometimes even more so, according to Bloomberg.

Through WFH (as it's been nicknamed), organizations in every industry have realized that it's totally possible for their employees to meet and surpass key performance indicators even without the rigidity of the conventional 9-5 system. Giving workers the freedom to choose their working hours (when possible and within reason) has proven incredibly beneficial. Beyond adjusting their hourly schedules, many employees and employers alike are now toying with the idea of adapting the work week, too.

As Forbes explains, the push for a four-day workweek is nothing new, but it's gained a considerable amount of traction in the past few years. So, is there any benefit to making the move to this new timetable? What would this arrangement mean for employers? Let's take a look:

The argument for a four-day workweek

It might not be widely known, but the five-day workweek to which we're all accustomed is a relatively recent development. Many people attribute it (along with the eight-hour workday) to automobile manufacturing magnate Henry Ford. Before that, employees across all industries commonly worked six days a week, for up to 12 hours a day. However, people worldwide are now considering reducing the number of working days per week even further.

Proponents of the change argue that the shortened work week leads to increased productivity: Indeed, as CodeBots explains, research has shown that most employees aren't actually working for the entirety of their allotted eight hours. By cutting down on the number of days worked, workers have less time in which to complete their work and, therefore, spend the time they do have more productively. Additionally, by having more time off, employees find that they're more relaxed and energized, which boosts their productivity even more.

Implications for business leaders

There's a reason people say "work smart, not hard." A shorter workweek might be the key to enhanced output that organizations so desperately need to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive world. Of course, a four-day workweek might not be suitable for every organization, so some might want to consider five shorter working days.

Apart from making current employees more efficient, businesses that adopt this approach may also find themselves more attractive to job seekers, which is certainly always a benefit amid the current skills and labor shortages. Potential employees are looking for transformative company cultures that foster and promote employee well-being, and a shorter workweek can possibly be the proof in the pudding that a company needs.