The Four-Day Work Week. Does It Work? Maybe.


By Angelina Tang

Imagine you were a full-time worker, offered the opportunity of working one less day a week, only for the same pay. Sounds great, right? The employee perspective of the idea of a four day work week, which has been tested in years of late around the world, is undoubtedly positive, but whether employers agree with that has been variable.

The idea of the four-day work week is as follows: for the reward of extra time off, employee productivity will increase on the four days they do work so that they can still achieve the same efficiency as a five-day work week. While this sounds good in theory, its practicality varies in real life. Microsoft’s experiment in Japan reported a 40% increase in productivity, but when another company, DeskTime, held a similar experiment with workers globally, they found only a 3.17% increase. This dramatic difference is likely due to cultural differences, as Japan has a very strict culture surrounding work, often putting careers before personal lives, unlike Western norms. As such, where in the world this system is implemented may affect how effective it is.

In general, different workplaces also have different productivity standards, as well. For example, while office jobs where one sits at a computer all day may be applicable to this four-day productivity increase, it’s certainly not applicable to fields like healthcare service, retail, and other jobs where a certain number of people is required and understaffing results in the other workers becoming overwhelmed.

Beyond career field and demographic location, other restrictions also exist to the four-day program’s application. Even in workplaces without a requirement for team numbers, stress has unfortunately become a byproduct of the system. In some trials of the program, having one less work day often resulted in more workers staying overtime to complete projects that they would’ve on the fifth day, as well as guilt and stress on their extra day off due to thinking about unfinished work. In a way, whether or not the four-day system works is not just limited by country-based culture, but also individual work culture. It’s a highly subjective and idealized concept that cannot realistically be put into use for the majority of workers.

In places where the system does work, however, there have been a multitude of benefits. For example, workers feel more satisfied with their job and have more time to spend on passions and family, thus improving mood and motivation to keep their job and perform well. Likewise, employee turnover reduces and employers don’t have to worry about losing money trying to hire and train new workers.

In conclusion, the four-day work week is an idea that has been tested and shown to both succeed and fail depending on highly specific workplace circumstances. It definitely does not work for everyone and may harm productivity for some, actually, but for those who do work well with it, it’s definitely a huge change in working culture for adults all over the world that may lead to happier, more fulfilled lives.