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4-day workweek: what it is, how it works, and why right now

The 4-day workweek is gaining more and more popularity around the world. It is not just an emerging trend, but a strategic transformation that can bring numerous benefits to companies that decide to adopt it. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at it, trying to understand what it is, how it works, what the main pros and cons are, and why it fits perfectly at this moment in history.

Table of contents:

Office workplace with a calendar in backgroud

Knowing the Past to Understand the Present

Before exploring the benefits of the 4-day week, it is important to look back at the revolutionary introduction of the 5-day, 40-hour workweek.

In 1926, Henry Ford, the automotive industry pioneer, implemented this revolutionary change for his workers. Until then, the standard workweek was 6 days and over 48 hours.

Ford realized that his workers, by working fewer hours, would be more productive and have more time to enjoy the fruits of their labor. This change led to a significant increase in productivity and quality, as well as reduced injury and absenteeism rates. In addition, Ford employees had more free time to spend with their families and consumption, stimulating the local economy.

The success of this reform revolutionized the manufacturing industry and eventually spread to other sectors. The 5-day, 40-hour workweek became the norm, leading to improved working conditions and quality of life for millions of workers.

What is the 4-day WorkWeek and How Does it Work

The 4-day workweek is an innovative working model where employees perform their weekly work activities over 4 days instead of 5 while maintaining their original pay. This means that workers enjoy 3 consecutive days off every week.

However, there is a debate surrounding the total number of hours employees should work during those 4 days. The 4 Day Week Global organization argues that the shortened week only makes sense if the total hours worked over the 4 days remains unchanged at 32 hours per week, which equates to 8 hours per day.

On the other hand, many Italian companies experimenting with this model have opted to redistribute the classic 40 weekly hours over 4 days instead of 5. This solution has been criticized because it may not bring effective benefits to the company and could potentially be worse than the traditional model, given the difficulty for employees to sustain 10 consecutive hours of work for 4 days a week.

The Advantages

To gain a comprehensive understanding of the advantages of the shorter workweek, one need only look at the numbers presented by 4 Day Week Global: +36% in revenue, +63% in talent attractiveness, -42% in resignations, and -64% in burnout. But that's not all:

  • Increased Productivity: Contrary to what one might think, reducing the number of working days to four does not necessarily mean a decrease in productivity. In fact, many companies that have adopted this model have seen an increase in employee productivity. With fewer working days, employees are more well-rested, motivated, and focused, resulting in greater efficiency during working hours. Furthermore, reduced stress and fatigue can lead to a decrease in absenteeism and turnover rates, further contributing to overall high productivity.

  • Cost Savings: Adopting a shorter workweek leads to significant operational cost savings for companies. With fewer workdays, companies can reduce energy costs, maintenance costs, and other office-related expenses.

  • Improved Well-being: One of the main advantages of the 4-day workweek is the improvement in work-life balance for employees. Having an extra day off allows them to dedicate more time to personal activities, family, and interests outside of work. This balance can lead to greater job satisfaction and motivation, resulting in benefits for the company in terms of productivity and talent retention.

  • Recruitment: Offering a 4-day workweek represents a significant competitive advantage for companies searching for qualified talent. In an increasingly competitive job market, companies that offer this flexibility can attract and retain top talent who appreciate the ability to better balance work and personal life.

  • Environmental Sustainability: The shorter workweek contributes to reducing a company's environmental impact. With one fewer day of commuting to work, greenhouse gas emissions and pollution related to transportation are reduced. Additionally, the reduction in energy consumption in offices during the closed day further contributes to the company's environmental sustainability.

  • Engagement: The 4-day workweek reinforces employees' sense of belonging and commitment to the company. When an organization adopts this innovative practice, it demonstrates a concern for the well-being of its employees and a willingness to adapt company policies to their needs. This concrete gesture of flexibility and attention to work-life balance is perceived by employees as a sign of respect and appreciation from the employer. Consequently, a relationship of mutual trust is established, encouraging workers to reciprocate with greater loyalty, commitment, and dedication to the company.

Happy employees

The Challenges

Adopting a four-day workweek can present some challenges, which vary depending on the type of industry and the chosen model. Firstly, for companies that require continuous coverage, it might be difficult to maintain service continuity, necessitating the organization of appropriate work shifts. More generally, there is an evident need to reorganize work processes to adapt them to the new schedules and deadlines.

Furthermore, if the option is to redistribute the classic 40 hours over four days instead of five, the increased intensity of the workdays might not only fail to deliver the expected benefits but could worsen the situation due to increased workloads and longer days, factors that can lead to increased stress and fatigue.

Finally, although it may seem counterintuitive, there is a natural resistance to change that manifests itself whenever structural modifications are made to any established model.

Despite these challenges appearing discouraging, many companies that have successfully adopted the four-day workweek have demonstrated that it is possible to overcome them through proper planning, clear communication, and a gradual approach to implementation.

The Inevitable Rise: AI and Technology as Enabling Factors

The current historical moment is proving particularly favorable for this epochal change. The advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation is revolutionizing the world of work, paving the way for new, more efficient, and balanced models.

The impact of AI on business operations is already a reality. Artificial intelligence has proven itself an excellent coworker for employees in many sectors, allowing them to optimize and accelerate their work. Many activities can now be supported, enhanced, or replaced by AI, freeing up human resources to focus on more complex, creative, and strategic tasks, thereby increasing overall productivity.

Furthermore, AI can assist companies in optimizing processes and managing working hours. Thanks to data analysis and machine learning, it is possible to identify periods of higher and lower workloads, enabling better resource allocation and more efficient activity planning.

Another key aspect is the automation of business procedures through intelligent software and applications. These tools can simplify and accelerate bureaucratic, administrative, and routine activities, freeing up valuable time for employees.

Technology is also revolutionizing communication and collaboration methods within companies. Virtual work platforms, videoconferencing tools, and instant messaging apps allow teams to remain connected and productive, even when not physically present in the office.

By combining the potential of AI, automation, and digital technologies, companies can compensate for the reduced working hours of the four-day workweek while maintaining or even increasing overall productivity. This historical moment offers the opportunity to embrace a more sustainable work model focused on employee well-being, without sacrificing business efficiency.

Human & Technology working toghether

Employee Well-being as a Corporate Priority

In addition to the advancement of artificial intelligence and technology, another crucial factor fueling the rise of the four-day workweek is the explosion of importance surrounding employee well-being in modern companies.

In the post-pandemic era, there has been a growing awareness of the negative effects that work-related stress, excessive workloads, and a lack of work-life balance can have on employees' physical and mental health. This has led to a shift in mindset within organizations, which have begun to view their employees' well-being not only as an ethical issue but also as a key factor for business success.

Numerous studies have shown that healthier, happier, and more motivated employees are more productive, creative, and engaged in their work. Furthermore, companies that promote employee well-being reduce rates of absenteeism, turnover, and burnout, resulting in cost savings and improvements in work quality.

Consequently, many organizations are implementing policies and initiatives aimed at enhancing their employees' well-being, such as psychological assistance programs, mindfulness activities, flexible working hours, and additional benefits to promote a healthy lifestyle. Moreover, an increasing number of companies are adopting advanced technological platforms to monitor and improve their employees' well-being, leveraging artificial intelligence. One example is the Qomprendo platform, which is based precisely on the two main enabling factors of this epochal change: AI and employee well-being. Qomprendo uses AI to analyze workers' behavior and interactions, identifying potential signals of stress or well-being issues and suggesting personalized strategies to address them.

The four-day workweek fits perfectly into this trend, offering a significant improvement in work-life balance. Having three consecutive days off allows employees to dedicate more time to recreational activities, family, and personal interests, reducing stress and fatigue.

In the context of the war for talent, investing in well-being through solutions like Qomprendo and the four-day workweek represents a significant competitive advantage for attracting and retaining top professionals, demonstrating a commitment to caring for employees, and promoting a healthy work-life balance.

The Ideal Moment to Embrace Change

After exploring the numerous advantages and potential challenges of implementing the four-day workweek, it is clear that we find ourselves at a crucial moment where this epochal change is not only desirable but almost a necessity.

On one hand, the benefits of this work model are multiple and tangible. Improved work-life balance, increased employee productivity and engagement, operational cost savings, a competitive advantage in attracting talent, and a positive impact on environmental sustainability are just some of the advantages companies can gain by adopting the four-day workweek.

On the other hand, the challenges associated with this change, such as the need to reorganize work processes, manage workloads, and address resistance to change, are certainly significant but not insurmountable. Companies that have already successfully implemented this model have demonstrated that careful planning, clear communication, and a gradual approach can smoothly overcome these obstacles.

Therefore, considering the numerous benefits, manageable challenges, and enabling factors of this historical moment, it is clear that the transition toward reduced working hours through the four-day workweek is a change perfectly aligned with the needs of our time.

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