Companies and organizations across the globe are currently piloting a reduced-hour work week—or have permanently adopted it. Most businesses reduce hours gradually, customizing schedules to fit the needs of the business, its customers and its people. Over the last year, more and more employers have made the transition to the benefit of their employees, their customers, and their bottom line.
Work borrows people from their lives. We gain so much when we return them to it. Are you ready?
Learn what it means to pilot a 4 day week and how you can join our global pilot.
Managing Director of CMG Technologies
It has absolutely transformed life for our employees - creating significantly lower job stress and helping them strike a better work-life balance. Beyond wellbeing, our team is stronger and functions better and this has impacted the bottom line and allowed us to retain our very valuable employees. What we do is very specialised so it's vital we attract and retain talent and the 4 day week appears to be the icing on the cake for employees who want to split their week in a more efficient way.
White collar businesses that typically work out of offices have been the most common organizations to adopt a 4 day week. 64% of businesses offering a 4 day week have seen increased productivity, while workers are overwhelmingly less stressed and happy.
Philadelphia software company Wildbit moved to a 4 day week in 2018. Focusing on their essential work and minimizing distractions, they shipped more and developed a stronger workplace.
“When we reviewed our first year of four-day weeks, we realized we launched more features than the previous year. This surprised us and helped us commit to continuing with the schedule. The real value of a four-day week comes from healthy pressure and forced downtime. Since we know we only have four days to get our work done, we work smarter to avoid distractions and cut through the procrastination . . . And with a three-day weekend, every person is poised to start their work on Monday.”
Working parents face huge challenges in today’s always-on workplace. Young mothers in particular struggle to raise children while staying in the workforce, and are likely to suffer career setbacks when they move to flexible schedules. Shorter workweeks make it easier for parents to start families and raise children; make societies more family-friendly; and could help slow falling birth rates in developed economies.
Buffer successfully moved to a permanent 4 day week in 2020 after trialing the shift during the pandemic. Their decision to adopt a 4 day week was made "very much with parents in mind" as working parents had to suddenly manage their children's educations in the home.
"“Our shift to the flexibility of a 4 day workweek has been one of the most key things keeping my family of 5 healthy & safe this past year. The trust & flexibility to work the schedule that works for me & my family is everything.”
The five day week was started in the manufacturing industry at Ford and Kellog. The 4 day week is possible as well–and can lead to the same economic and social benefits that was seen with the transition of a six day week to a five day week.
CMG Technologies, which makes precision metal components, moved its workforce to a 4 day week in 2014. The firm is a leader in metal injection molding, which lets the 28-person firm produce medical-grade scalpels, and components for aerospace companies. The work requires creativity, attention to detail, and the ability to innovate— injection molding is usually used with plastics, and few companies have learned to apply it to metal.
"It has absolutely transformed life for our employees - creating significantly lower job stress and helping them strike a better work-life balance. Beyond wellbeing, our team is stronger and functions better and this has impacted the bottom line and allowed us to retain our very valuable employees. What we do is very specialised so it's vital we attract and retain talent and the 4 day week appears to be the icing on the cake for employees who want to split their week in a more efficient way."
The construction industry encompasses a wide variety of labor, from design, legal, and compliance work, to pouring concrete and wiring up buildings. For builders and contractors, a shorter workweek allows workers more time for recovery, family, and professional development, while encouraging companies to review and improve their processes.
Elektra Lighting is a UK-based contractor that designs lighting installations for hotels, restaurant chains, retail stores, and historic buildings. The company juggles multiple projects at once, and their lighting engineers have to coordinate their schedules with construction crews, electricians, interior decorators, and others. Further, as Elektra founder Neil Knowles wrote, it's "an industry that prizes long hours and tells you you’ve failed if you’re not working 60-hour weeks." Nonetheless, they moved to a 4 day week in early 2019.
“For the staff, including me, a 3 day weekend revolutionises your life. With two days off, you only just recover from the week before starting again. With three, it’s a whole new ball game.... We’re a team of creative lighting consultants. We work on restaurants and hotels and retail projects, so we cannot live in isolation. We need to be inspired, to breathe, and to notice the interesting detail in the stonework that we never noticed before because we had to rush and hurry.... Do we do the same amount of work? Seem to. Are we more mindful and more conscious of every moment, trying not to waste time? Yes.”
It’s been a challenging year for restaurants. But the industry was facing challenges before COVID. It’s getting harder and harder for chefs to staff their restaurants. 80-hour weeks, burns, stress and lack of work-life balance mean it’s becoming a less and less attractive career option. As restaurants roar back to life, some have successfully made the switch to reducing hours to provide better work-life balance for employees and fuel the creativity and passion that drives the restaurant industry.
Chef Bruno Chemel opened his Palo Alto, California restaurant Baumé in 2012. It was awarded a Michelin star its first year, and a second star the year after. Running a restaurant to such a high standard is stressful, and eventually Bruno realized that by moving to a 4 day week, he could maintain quality without burning out.
“I was not focusing on my job, I have a lot of stress, a lot of energy out, and I was so tired, but at the end of the day, for what?… Then we realized that... [the] more you work, less efficient you are, more tired. Then you realize, working less, you are more efficient. Opening four days make us more efficient, more focused, maybe better.”
While often initiated by budget concerns or the COVID epidemic, numerous school systems have found they can provide the same or better level of education in four days as they had in five. The extra time provides teachers with more space to develop more effective classes and feedback, while students have more time to rest and do homework without burning out from overload.
In 2017 the Cobre School District in New Mexico moved to a 4 day week. A shorter workweek has helped reduce teachers turnover, and saved the district money on substitutes and recruiting fees. In a rural district where 90 minute commutes to school are common, students save hundreds of hours of driving each year. And teachers say that they have more time for class preparation and professional development.
“I feel that extra day gave me… one day off to rest and recover as well. But it also — it made my classroom and my teaching that much better, because my lesson plans were better, more in-depth.”
The medical facilities that have pioneered 4 day weeks have seen better outcomes for patients and healthcare workers. A 4 day week in clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes has been done and can extend to other essential workers.
Virginia nursing home The Glebe reduced certified nurses assistants’ workweek from 40 hours to 30 hours without cutting pay. The program costs them about $140,000 a year in salaries, but saves over $120,000 a year in job search and temporary agency costs. The program also reduced turnover, and improved quality of care.
“It’s not easy to provide care for people who are elderly, have multiple clinical issues, and co-morbidities. Having staff that's the best of the best is paramount. With a 30-hour week you’re increasing staff quality, you’re becoming a staff destination, you’re promoting continuity of care and improving outcomes, and staff feel valued because they’re being paid a lot more than their peers. Staff are always on the floor with the residents; falls, abrasions, and infections are down, and call bell response time is shorter. I believe the 30-hour week is the silver bullet to the staffing crisis. You have to have good leadership and a good solid foundation before you run this program, and I think a lot of people in the industry lack the courage to give it a try. But what’s the worst that happens? We go back to the same old way. ”
There is often concern from organizations that rely on clients that moving to a four day week could lose them clients. However, many consulting firms and agencies across the world have moved to a 4 day week without losing a client. All it takes is communication and expectation setting.
Rich Leigh moved Radioactive PR to a 4 day week in 2018. One year in, the company was signing up new clients (and no company had rejected them because of their 4 day week), profits were the same, and the number of applicants doubled. Even though they were doing five days’ work in four, employees were taking half as many sick days, and three-quarters said they were definitely enjoying better work-life balance.
“Clients have been amazingly supportive – both clients that were with us prior to the change and new ones we’ve taken on since. Results and communication are still a priority for us, and in the world of PR, where you’re constantly proving yourself and there are plenty of other alternative agencies for clients to choose, there’d be immediate and irrefutable feedback if it wasn’t working because clients would be off!”
Governments face the same challenges as companies with recruiting and retaining talent, encouraging innovation, and reducing stress and burnout without sacrificing service. Some offices (especially in small towns and rural counties) move to a 4 day week; others expand office hours from 8 to 12 hours a day, and divide staff between 6-hour shifts.
Morgantown, a city of 180,000 in West Virginia, trialed a 4 day workweek option for public employees in 2020, as part of an effort to increase flexibility for public employees during the pandemic. (Kauai County in Hawaii, and Jefferson County in Colorado, likewise implemented 4 day weeks for non-emergency public employees at the same time.)
During the pandemic, “two things have become increasingly apparent. The first is just how important it is to spend time with family. The second is that there is always room for improvement in how we provide services to our customers. By transitioning our schedules during this pilot program, we can provide extended hours to residents, businesses, and contractors while allowing our employees to spend more time at home with their families.”
"The 4-day workweek has been one of the best things our company has ever done. We're more focused during the workweek, we're as productive as we were before, team morale is up, work-stress is down, and weekends feel spacious. As a brute-force entrepreneur, I worked 50+ hours before the 4-day workweek, and I'm now consistently at 32-34 hours per week of smart, focused work. The 4-day workweek is a powerful forcing function to determine what's important and what's not; it helps all of us prioritize and deprioritize better."
Two thirds (63%) of employers said that providing a 4 day working week has helped them toattract and retain talent.
6 out of 10 U.S. employees report feeling unengaged. Globally, it’s 9 out of 10. Employers who have worked with their employees to adopt a 4 day week, typically report increased engagement, higher quality work, and increased productivity.
We are experiencing a burnout epidemic at all levels of organizations. 66% of employees reported burn out and 95% of human resources leaders say burnout is a significant cause of workforce turnover. Employees overwhelmingly feel happier and less stressed working a 4 day week, reducing burnout, improving work quality, and increasing retention.
Just over half of companies who have adopted a 4 day week find that it saves costs.
In a survey of 250 businesses operating on a 4 day week, businesses reported their employees are happier (78%), less stressed (70%), and produce better work (63%).
Carbon emissions and vehicle travel are reduced significantly with a reduction in working days. A 4 day week can help you take meaningful action on the climate crisis.
4 day workplaces are more gender-balanced, as caretakers with young children or elderly family members benefit from a reduced-hour schedule.
A 4 day week can expand opportunities for those who have too often been ignored, giving the elderly, members of marginalized communities, and others an opportunity to get onto a professional job track.
4 day week employers benefit from higher visibility and are highly sought after by potential employees. Ford and Kellog established their corporate leadership by pioneering the 5 day week more than a century ago. Will you take the next step?
The research whitepaper examining the successful four day week pilot at Perpetual Guardian, a 200-person financial services firm in 2018. The firm found dramatic increases in firm productivity and employee well-being and have permanently adopted a 4 day week.
With its emphasis on productivity, The 4 Day Week tackles hard issues facing our world, for example stress and the breakdown in mental health, gender equality in pay, and the environmental crisis. 4 day weeks offer significant societal benefits from relief of congested highways and public transport systems, reduction in healthcare costs, through to more harmonious families and more purposeful lives.
Shorter tells the story of entrepreneurs and leaders all over the world who have discovered how to shrink the workweek without cutting salaries or sacrificing productivity or revenues. They show that by reducing distractions, eliminating inefficiencies, and creating time for high-quality focus and collaboration, 4-day workweeks can boost recruitment and retention, make leaders more thoughtful and companies more sustainable, and improve work-life balance. Using design thinking, a business and product development process pioneered in Silicon Valley, futurist and consultant Alex Pang creates a step-by-step guide for readers to redesign their workdays.
The first in a series of blog posts by Colorado-based Uncharted on how they designed and assessed their 4 day week pilot. Uncharted decided to permanently adopt a 4 day week after their 3 month trial.
Henley’s research reveals how a shorter working week on full pay could add to businesses’ bottom lines through increased staff productivity and an uplift in staff physical and mental health, while also resulting in a cleaner environmental footprint.