Why your company should embrace the four-day workweek

 May 25, 2024

Why your company should embrace the four-day workweek

At Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies Summit, these execs from 4 Day Week Global, Kickstarter, and Public Policy Lab made a solid case for the four-day workweek.

BY Claire Zhao

The push for a four-day workweek has recently surged in popularity, spearheaded by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ proposed legislation. While the idea of a 32-hour workweek remains a fanciful notion for many, the idea is catching on with companies either fully hopping onboard or at least opting for a trial run.

Last week, Fast Company‘s Most Innovative Companies Summit brought together Dale Whelehan, CEO of 4 Day Week Global; Tarveen Forrester, VP of people at Kickstarter; and Shanti Mathew, managing director of Public Policy Lab to discuss the benefits of a shortened work week and how best to embrace it.

Reducing burnout to maximize productivity

Unsurprisingly, one of the main concerns of the four-day workweek is the effect it has on an organization’s productivity. Yet Whelehan argued the four-day workweek is ultimately a productivity intervention. Giving workers more time off significantly reduces burnout and improves employee engagement and retention, thus increasing the level and quality of output for the organization

Whelehan cited the Yerkes-Dodson’s Law, which models the relationship between stress and task performance. “You’re trying to get to that level where people get the optimal level of stress in their work to produce output without tipping them over the edge and into burnout,” he said. “That’s what a four-day workweek achieves.”

As a behavioral scientist, Whelehan said it comes down to leaders within organizations realizing they have to create “a new form of management that is focused on the physiology and psychology of humans.” And what’s better for employees in this regard is ultimately better for business.

Invest in more effective management

The objective of the four-day workweek is for workers to produce the same level of output in 32 hours as they formerly did in 40 hours. This means employees will be expected to produce more output per hour than they formerly did, leading to a style of work that will feel fast-paced and intense. The key to consistently achieve this objective will be to invest in manager effectiveness.

Why your company should embrace the four-day workweek
[Photo: Celine Grouard for Fast Company]

“When you’re moving fast, you have to understand what’s going on with your colleagues, your teammates around you, and other business units,” Forrester said. “Any company that’s thinking about the four-day workweek should really be prepared to invest in manager effectiveness.”

Create a new structure that works for your company

Simply offering a Monday to Thursday, 9 am to 5 pm workweek fails to solve the most fundamental problem with the way work is structured today: It’s incompatibility with the demands of many people’s daily lives. The key is finding a model that best fits employees and the organization as a whole.

For example, in client-facing organizations, Whelehan suggested a staggered approach to staffing, e.g. having some employees work Monday to Thursday and some Tuesday to Friday. Or a company could simply hire more staff. Sure there are more costs associated with that approach but, as Whelehan explained, “when you look at the macroeconomic costs, significant reductions in burnout, resignations, the cost of recruitment, there’s a net economic benefit by creating what essentially is a much more sustainable human resource structure.”

Making time for creativity

The four-day workweek most importantly frees up more time for employees. Increased leisure time not only increases wellbeing, but has historically been important in facilitating the creativity that leads to human progress.

“People are so multifaceted and we’re living in a world where we’re so overstimulated,” Forrester said. “And so when you’re giving people time back, you’re giving them the agency to have a life and have experiences outside of work.”

“That comes back to us tenfold and is able to fuel the organization,” she continued, “because when you have experience as outside of work, it drives things like your curiosity. It drives things like ideation. It drives things like your connectedness to self.”

Why your company should embrace the four-day workweek

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Claire Zhao was an editorial intern at Fast Company and is a current undergraduate at Stanford University. You can connect with her through Linkedin or email. 


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