In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are reassessing how they structure their typical workweek. With the vast majority of companies moving to an online format, there were multitudes of positive and negative effects on employee productivity. The four-day workweek was also tested during the pandemic, forcing companies to think differently about how to promote productivity. While looking for ways to create a more productive atmosphere, many businesses have looked into the benefits and drawbacks of implementing a four-day work week with ten-hour days instead of the standard five-day work week consisting of eight-hour days. Multiple studies have been conducted testing out the effects of both formats on employee productivity. Just like the online vs. in-person debate, there proved to be ample benefits and drawbacks for both sides making the result differ from company to company.
To begin, it is important to understand the benefits of the standard five-day workweek to get a better idea of why it has been used by the vast majority of companies for so long. The structure of the five-day workweek consisting of eight-hour workdays was first notably implemented by Henry Ford in the 1920s. Ford ran his factories twenty-four hours a day split up between three eight-hour shifts. This eight-hour workday model was later widely adopted during the Great Depression as a tool to address unemployment (Vozza, 2022). The historic success of this model is mostly attributed to the consistency of its use across America. The majority of American companies have used this structure for so long that society has found its own routine working around the standard nine-to-five schedule. Families with young children have easy options like day care giving them the ability to work the full day for five days out of the week. The five-day workweek has also reduced levels of long-term burnout (Fadel et al., 2019). Employees have more time for leisure every day during the week. It is a schedule that, for decades, has been consistent across many different companies.
In recent years, however, many drawbacks of the five-day workweek have been recognized. To start, many employees find it difficult to find a healthy work-life balance when having to work five days out of the week and only have two days off. Moreover, companies found that they were wasting a significant amount of time and resources at the end of the week, most notably on Fridays (Abbas, 2019). It has been shown that more work can get done in a shorter, more condensed week rather than stretching the work week out over five days. Because of this, many companies have begun to look into and implement the four-day schedule.
Throughout the testing, there have been multiple noted benefits and drawbacks of the four-day, ten-hour-per-day work week. Some of the benefits of the four-day workweek include a reduction in stress, a better work-life balance, and an increase in happiness at work (Hulett, 2020). Studies have shown that around two-thirds of American workers experience burnout at their jobs every year. A reduction in weekly work days has been shown to reduce stress and prevent high frequencies of burnout. A New Zealand company that has adopted the four-day workweek noted a 24 percent increase in employee satisfaction in relation to their work-life balance (Graham-McLay, 2018). Having an extra day off every weekend creates more leisure time for workers, giving them more of a balance week in and week out. This schedule also cultivates a happier employee atmosphere by allowing them to feel more flexible at work. In a pilot program that tested this structure across 33 businesses worldwide, it was noted that 63 percent of businesses found it easier to retain and attract employees and 78 percent of employees reported that 4-day work weeks made them happier and less stressed (4 Day Week Global, 2019). This 4/10 work schedule trial has shown significant levels of success in this schedule across the 903 employees who were involved in the test trial. While there are plenty of proven benefits of this schedule, there have also been some recorded drawbacks.
In the 4/10 trial conducted worldwide, some companies have noted that some of their employees had experienced a more short-term form of burnout (Team, 2023). Some of the employees found it harder to work through all ten hours of the workday and experienced burnout from that despite having regular three-day weekends. Other companies have reported that some employees with children have found that the ten-hour work days complicate child care (4 Day Week Global, 2019). While many childcare centers establish their operating hours surrounding the standard eight-hour workday, some workers have found this to be difficult to work around.
Organizations must carefully consider their own circumstances to be able to drive their choice between these two schedules. By doing so, they can create a work environment that cultivates productivity, well-being, and success.
The choice between a traditional five-day workweek and a 4/10 schedule brings about a multitude of benefits and drawbacks. The familiar five-day format provides structure and consistency, but it may lead to work-life balance challenges and a potential decrease in productivity throughout the week. In contrast, the four-day week can reduce stress, improve work-life balance, and enhance employee happiness; however, it may not suit everyone, specifically those with childcare responsibilities. My research has shown a notable trend among companies that have moved away from remote and hybrid formats. it appears many of these companies with in-office employees noted positive increases in productivity since moving toward the 4/10 schedule format. With that being said, it is also noteworthy that the ideal work schedule appears to depend mostly on a company's specific needs and culture. There is no one clear answer to this other than smaller trends that appeared in the test trials. Organizations must carefully consider their own circumstances to be able to drive their choice between these two schedules. By doing so, they can create a work environment that cultivates productivity, well-being, and success.