The Benefits of a Four Day Work Week

The Benefits of a Four Day Work Week.

Across Europe, the four-day work week trend is popular. From the Spanish government encouraging shorter weeks, to large companies across the globe trialling it as a phased return to the office, four-day work weeks are being discussed as a way to improve wellbeing and productivity, along with other benefits.

In 1956, Richard Nixon, then Vice President, said that through the continuation of his administration’s economic policies, he foresaw a “four-day work week and a fuller family life for every American.” Not since the 1920’s, when a five-day work week was adopted after Henry Ford, has such a workplace revolution taken place.

There is, however, a barrier to this revolution. There is growing concern from employers, especially those in the Baby Boomers and Gen X (38-55+) categories, over the introduction of a four-day work week and the potential impact it could have on the customer experience and their competitiveness with other businesses from the same industry.

The four-day work week has highlighted how the workplace can change meaningfully without impacting productivity levels. So, what are the benefits of the four-day work week?

The European Four-Day Work Week and Happiness

Across Europe, the shorter working hours in many countries and stricter laws around benefits, compensation and more have led to consistently higher rankings in the World Happiness Report Ranking over traditional countries like the USA.

In 2021, the USA ranked 19th in happiness, but it had declined since 2019 where it was ranked globally in position 18th. Comparatively, Scandinavian states such as Finland, Denmark and Switzerland are consistently at the top of the board, along with many other European countries offering more flexible employment benefits and forms of compensation.

Countries with a Reduced Work Week

Countries like the Netherlands already have a shorter working week (on average across full and part time employees), and many other countries, such as Spain have begun to trial it in some departments across government.

Companies Offering a Four Day Work Week

While some big-name organizations are trialling four-day work weeks, including high-profile brands like Microsoft and Unilever, many other companies are either already offering four-day work weeks to their employees or investigating it what it could mean for their workplace.

Henley Business School research suggests that flexible working practices are typically offered to management roles. This follows a pattern whereby senior managers are offered more flexible schedules to deliver tasks and projects with fewer restraints, such as working remotely or reduced (or sometimes longer) work weeks.

In the US, for example, worker classification can impact the work week. Instead of a traditional working practice, exempt employees work until tasks and projects are completed, rather than within defined hours.