Thousands of workers worldwide presently are experiencing a four-day workweek with no loss of pay as hundreds of small and large U.S. and international companies are participating in the biggest four-day week trial in the world that started in June 2022 and will last six months.
The trial has been organized by 4 Day Week Global in partnership with scientists at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College.
Juliet Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College, and lead researcher on the trial join Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, and other celebrities to talk about it at this year’s flagship TED conference, TED2022: A New Era. She said: “The four-day week gives multiple benefits for employees and the organization. For employees, the gains include lower stress levels, better work-family balance, and better overall health; for the employers: fewer resignations and absenteeism, and no drop—sometimes a rise—in productivity.”
- Can a 4-day workweek increase productivity
The idea about a 4-days work week started in the 2000s, and eventually, companies in countries such as Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Scotland and other nations experimented successfully with implementing the 4-day week.
But if we look at the real world – does a 4-day workweek actually work? Can workers complete their weekly job in 4 days?
Work reorganization is the key. First, eliminating destructive activity from work hours to free time and increase productivity.
Then dealing with work-related stress that significantly reduces performance. Based on the Global workplace report last year, more than 40% of employees from 100 different countries suffer from work stress. Having an extra day for themselves makes workers less stressed. They respect their jobs more and are motivated to do well.
People are willing to squeeze all of their output into four days in exchange for the gift of a day off, which is a major component of the concept. So, while they may be working less, they are not necessarily performing less work.
- Governments efforts worldwide to adopt a 4-day workweek
Various governments worldwide are putting their efforts into adopting a 4-day workweek. This year, the UAE government has declared a 4.5-day workweek for all government entities forming 2.5 days including Saturday and Sunday weekend.
Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand-based corporation, made news in 2018 after seeing a 20% improvement in productivity after they committed to a 4-day workweek.
In 2015, the city of Reykjavik and later the Icelandic national government began providing 35 hours work weeks, eventually enrolling 25,000 people and the outcome has been remarkable. Physical and mental stress levels have decreased, while work ethic, job satisfaction, work-life balance, and energy levels have increased. Today, around 85 percent of Icelandic employees are either on these schedules or are eligible for them. Spain and Scotland have launched four-day workweek trials in which they subsidized the fifth day’s salary. Microsoft tried a 4-day workweek in Japan in 2019 and they found a massive 40% increase in productivity. Movements by innovating governments are enticing more countries to contribute to this process.
- Can automation take charge during human absence
The concept of a 4-day workweek provides advantages for society, businesses, and employees.
Certain sectors of the economy can benefit highly from the AI and automation industry during this human absence. For example:
A) Talent acquisition
B) Hiring process
C) Automated Customer Service
D) Data entry
The list doesn’t end here. These are some of the many sectors that are viable for automation during this time of human absence.
Thanks to increasing levels of automation and a greater focus on employee wellbeing, the 4-day workweek has a great future. But will get there by a gradual reduction of working hours.
- The Environment and Climate Change angle of a 4-day work week
The idea of a 4-day work week has advantages for both the firm and the employees, and it may even pave the way for tackling climate change. It has a clear effect because fewer people are traveling to work every day.
People who are under time pressure prefer to pick faster, more polluting methods of travel and everyday activities. In contrast, people tend to have a smaller carbon footprint when they have more time as opposed to more money.
We can build a long-term decarbonization dynamic by using productivity growth to continue to lower labor hours by a few percent every year.
- Where is a 4-day work week not feasible
Although a 4-day work week may benefit the employees and the overall productivity, it may differ industry-wise. Some industries require the constant presence of humans to be productive and efficient. For example,
A) Medical Care: Doctors and nurses have to work in shifts to provide constant care. A 4-day workweek is only possible if the public workers work in day-to-day shifts.
B) Banking Sector: Being a highly regulated industry if banks operate in a 4-day work concept, it will be highly problematic for the clients to avail their financial demands, transactions, and other banking services.
C) Production Unit of FMCG: The sector of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) can’t be stopped. It requires a fast-paced ongoing working process.
The 4-day work week concept comes to us as a new working philosophy that still needs execution, practice, and research to fully fathom and use as a strategy.
This is something that should not be mandated for everybody and every organization. It should be up to the worker and the employer on a case-by-case basis.
But as far as social interaction, human contact, and job satisfaction go, a 4-day work week is a blessing for every worker.
Written by Olga Artemenko.
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