The four-day working week is an ambitious policy designed to offer employees flexible hours and a better work-life balance. While remote working has proven more viable for many small and large businesses around the globe during the pandemic, could the five-day working week be the next traditional policy revisited?
The Industries That Would Benefit From A Four-Day Week
JC Glancy, a founder at business formation provider ZenBusiness, looks into the industries that would benefit from a four-day week the most, and the benefits it could have on both employees and business owners.
Financial Services Companies
While finance jobs can offer higher salaries, heavy workloads and extreme competitiveness can take their toll on employees working in the sector. Certain roles, such as investment banking analysts, require 80 working weeks as standard.
JC Glancy says, "Those working in the financial service sector have some of the most stressful jobs possible, with those working as analysts and associates balancing the difficulty of work, coupled with the sheer amount of it."
Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand financial services company, switched its 240 staff from a five-day to a four-day week, maintaining their pay.
This showed an increase in productivity in the four days their employees worked, and there was no drop in work output.
Staff stress levels dropped by seven percentage points, while work/life balance scores increased from 54% to 78%. A 20% rise in productivity appeared to have helped increase profits whilst increasing staff well-being.
Fast Food Chains
The fast-food industry is continuing to grow in the US, with an expected increase of 8.9% in 2021, and with the demand for fast service comes added pressure and longer hours for employees.
JC Glancy says, "A four-day workweek would give employees of fast-food chains a more structured daily or weekly routine, and avoid the problem of overworking staff, especially those working in establishments open 24 hours a day.”
Fast-food chain Shake Shack trialled a shorter week a few years ago across some of its West Coast restaurants, allowing managers to work their 40 hours across four days instead of five for the same pay and benefits.
A few months after the trial, Shake Shack’s CEO, Randy Garutti, set his sights on expanding the four-day workweek to more locations. The initiative had become a powerful program for retaining and recruiting store managers, with employees reporting that the decision had improved their lifestyle and their finances.
Today, many businesses rely heavily on technology to stay afloat, providing a faster, convenient, and more efficient way of performing business transactions.
With many businesses offering their services online both day and night, this means technology partners will be required to offer customer service to support these businesses.
JC Glancy says, “Starting a small business takes a lot of time, energy, money, and creativity, and opting for a four-day week is one way many businesses choose to reduce expenses. However, we have also seen that larger tech businesses are taking advantage of this opportunity.”
In August 2019, Microsoft Japan implemented a four-day week giving their 2,300 employees five Fridays off in a row – and the results were a success. Productivity jumped 40%, meetings were more efficient, and workers- who were also happier- took a lot less time off.
Nine out of ten employees at the company said they preferred the shorter working week and other benefits, including a 23% reduction in weekly electricity use, and a 59% decrease in the number of pages printed by employees, which were also welcomed by employers.
Many business consultants are in charge of organizing and assigning business projects on behalf of their clients, and meeting with assigned clients when needed in case of any problematic situations.
While consultants advise businesses on everyday activities, they can also experience stressful, long-winded days depending on the number of clients they are dealing with.
One global company that decided to venture from the traditional working week is Think Productive, which wanted to see what would happen if they allowed staff to work hours more suited to their attention and momentum rhythms.
Their staff were offered a choice of either working a traditional Monday to Friday or slightly longer eight hours and 50-minute days Monday through Thursday, including one Friday a month to ensure fairness with employees working a traditional pattern.
As a result, the shorter working weeks allowed even more focus on making space for high impact work, workflow became more streamlined and longer weekends saw employees return on a Monday refreshed and ready to go.