Pros and cons of a 4-day week

23 February 2017

It’s probably not the first thing you’d bring up at your performance review, but, let’s face it, we’d all put our hands up for a three-day weekend, wouldn’t we?

The idea of a four-day working week has been batted around for decades with countries such as Italy and Japan currently discussing it as a way to help reduce unemployment and help workers maintain a healthy work-life balance.

But in our part of the world where a recent study of expats by InterNations revealed 71% of Aussies and 79% of Kiwis agreed they had a good balance between work and leisure time (that puts us both in the top 10 of the 67 nations surveyed) do we need to shake up the traditional 9-5 grind?

After all, the most recent national stats for both countries show that employers are already pretty flexible when it comes to helping workers fit their 40-hour working weeks around family and lifestyles. In New Zealand, 48% of employed people have flexible work hours and can start and finish work at different times each day if they want, whereas in Australia around 30% of dads take advantage of flexible work hours so they can help look after their kids compared to just 16% two decades ago.

So when we’ve seemingly already got it so good in offices across Australasia, does it make sense to bring in a four-day week?

We thought we’d run through a few of the pros and cons of shaking up your working week – just in case you want to run it past the boss in your next review!

In favour of the four-day week

Happier workplace: Almost all pilot projects and studies into four-day weeks have shown that employees really like the idea of trading a longer work day for a three-day weekend – and when you and your workmates really like their work hours, that makes for a much better and productive workplace all round, right? It certainly produces fewer sick days and overall job satisfaction, and a 2008 study at Brigham Young University, which found around 80% of employees reported a positive experience, was so convincing that the US state of Utah brought in a compulsory four-day week for its employees.

Earn the same, cut your costs: This might not be the reason that sways your boss when you pitch for a four-day week, but just think of the savings you’ll make to commuting and parking costs by cutting out a day’s worth of travel. Just make sure you don’t turn your new extra weekend day into a high-spending day!

Take control of your work hours: So many of us enjoy the potential of flexible work hours, but how familiar is that decision to just stay on an extra hour to finish that office project? Do that five days a week and suddenly you’re clocking up more than an extra half day of work. When you work a 10-hour day you tend to work smarter to get projects completed by the end of your shift… and you don’t rack up hours of unpaid overtime.

Against the four-day week

That happier workplace is still quite expensive to run: Remember those lucky folks in Utah with their compulsory four-day week? Well just three years after the initial study, the state reversed its decision saying that expected savings to energy and operational costs hadn’t panned out and everyone went back to their traditional two-day weekend.

Who’s running the roster? If you’re working in a business that is open five or six days a week, then you’ve still got to find the staff to pick up the phones and work the front desk. The modern office might all be about hot-desking and flexible hours, but nothing gets done if no-one’s around and that can mean a serious roster headache. What happens when everyone wants Fridays off? Does the business enforce a day off in the middle of the week? Who would enjoy a three-day weekend when Monday is that third day of rest?

Is this honestly a better lifestyle? Are you still thinking straight after 10 hours at your desk? Are you sacrificing four evenings with your kids just so you can pick them up from school on a Friday? Add those extra two hours a day to you commute and it might mean you’re so tired by the end of the week that you need your extra weekend day just to get back on an even keel.

What the heck’s a 40-hour week anyway? The whole idea of 9-5, Monday to Friday jobs is just so passé these days as offices fill up with Gen-Y and Millennials who want their careers to work around them. Thought and trend leaders like Google and social media companies are already playing with unlimited annual leave, “wellbeing days” (as opposed to sick days), and 30-hour weeks so why spend time negotiating whether you’re going to be in the office for four or five days? Instead, work out why you’re working, when you want to work and how you can be your most productive and pitch a whole new plan.

Is it right for you?

Are you going to get much more done in 10 hours than you would in eight? Is your business going to see any benefits to its bottom line by having a happier, more productive workplace through a four-day week? Food for thought!

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