The talk of a four-day work week is growing, and though it may seem a bit surreal, there are a slew of benefits that have caught the attention of employers and employees. As a result, the productivity, time, ways, and demands set for employees have shifted. Just what have employers considering and implementing shorter work weeks?
It may be surprising to hear that the four-day work week is not a new idea. In fact, a bill set before congress in 1933, and supported by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was passed by a significant margin reducing the work week to only 30 hours. Even if the motivations were to create more jobs in response to the Great Depression, the point is that legislators and businesses have considered these variations before, generally always with higher productivity in mind.
Interestingly, the U.S. is behind in this philosophy by comparison to other well-developed countries like Germany, Ireland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Germany averaged 29 hours a week; Ireland, 33.5; Belgium, 29.8; Norway 27.3. Each country had a higher GDP rate per hour. Germany’s was $93.4 in comparison to the United States's $68.3 with a 33.6 hour work week.
Much of lost time and productivity in business is related to things like unnecessary meetings, digital distractions, constant emails, and disinterest in work. Companies that have experimented with a four-day work week have found that less time over the course of a week means increased pressure to stay on task for employees.
On the other side of that, employees demonstrated greater productivity, job satisfaction, teamwork, and better work/life balance. It is easy to postulate why those factors would also add up to a 45%-34% decrease in stress levels. More than that, the extra time actually becomes an opportunity and excuse for employees to spend more time on their professional development.
When considering how much time is typically needed to be allocated by businesses to set up trainings formally versus employees making the time to learn more skills in their free time, a four day work week makes sense.
The 40-hour work week, though it has been standardized for generations, has obviously proven itself to be flawed in some ways. When considering just the factor of how much time employees have left over to themselves per week after commuting both ways, running errands, managing other responsibilities, and trying to maintain some sense of physical health, that leaves very little time for professional development.
This is especially true when considering that a job takes up the majority of energy people have at the beginning of a day. An alternative model for a 70-20-10 workplace purposefully injects tailored professional development into the workplace. 70% of the time should occur through on the job experience, 20% through social interaction and mentorships, 10% by formal training programs. By intentionally weaving hands-on experiences and voluntary learning experiences, employees have the choice of how much and in what ways they can engage. This freedom and empowerment means more skills to be drawn from and a lower attrition rate in workplaces.