The Anatomy of Work Index 2021 survey conducted among 13,000 employees around the world indicates that the time 'wasted' at work is equivalent to roughly one day per week. The idea of a four-day week is a mere step away!
The concept is very simple: leaving behind the traditional work model and working only 4 days a week. This promises an improved work-life balance... and much more.
Prior to looking at the opportunities of this model, let's have a first glance at its composition. In essence, there are three paths of interpretation:
- A reduction in the number of working hours per week, with the same salary. In other words: Just the same as before, only one day less!
- Maintaining the weekly hours worked, with the same pay. The aim of this system, designed to extend the daily working time to cover up the loss of a day, is to ensure that certain sectors do not experience a decline in activity.
- A reduction in the number of weekly hours... and an associated reduction in pay. Surprisingly, few companies around the world have considered it. Clearly, this concept is not the answer!
4-day week: a proven model
In practice, this model cannot be applied to all industries. Its implementation proves to be challenging, given that it requires a thorough rethinking of the company's organisation and operating practices to achieve concrete results.
While it may not be suitable for everyone, it is an interesting way of responding to the societal, environmental and economic challenges we face. This model has been extensively adopted in Iceland and the Netherlands, and is currently being tested in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain - as well as in a number of specific companies in Argentina, France, Australia and Japan
Feel like giving it a try? So do we!
Benefits of this business model
Andrew Barnes co-founded 4 Day Week Global. The non-profit community aims to provide a platform for businesses interested in this paradigm and its future, and is presently running a large-scale pilot project in the UK. He says: "It's not just about an extra day off: it's an effective response to productivity, customer service, professional goals and business, both on an individual and collective level.
The benefits of the 4-day week include
Benefit #1: Employee well-being
One extra day off is an extra day to focus on yourself. Family time, daily tasks, leisure activities, sports, medical visits and administrative organisation... Everyone can use this free time as they see fit for a better life balance. Its indirect benefit?
Employees' well-being at work. Having more time to take care of oneself means taking care of one's mental and physical health and seeing the working week from a new perspective.
Benefit #2: Less absenteeism
Companies that have tested this model are reporting fewer sick days among their employees. In our country where "sick leave" seems somewhat prevalent, this argument is of considerable interest to companies.
The four-day week, which allows more time for oneself, helps to prevent illness and allows employees to rest, but also to recover and reduce stress, resulting in fewer sick days.
Benefit #3: A new way of managing working time
One day less to work implies a whole new way of thinking about one's week! To accomplish in 4 days what was previously done in 5 (the sine qua non of this concept being, obviously, to maintain the growth of the company), the prioritisation of tasks is essential.
Rather than a headlong rush, the advantage of this approach is that it encourages getting rid of irrelevant tasks in order to focus on the essential. For example, shortening meetings and making them less recurrent, or allocating a specific time each day to answer emails. In this respect, the principles of "deep work" are a wealth of information... and helpful self-examination!
Benefit #4: Increased productivity
Several studies and experiments conducted around the world on the subject have proven to enhance the productivity and performance of employees. Having to engage our regular tasks in 4 days instead of 5 would improve our concentration.
With a shorter week and the reward of a long weekend, we have less time to be distracted by small talks with colleagues or to perform secondary tasks - even outside our actual scope of work. Individual concentration, work rhythm organisation and productivity are therefore the trifecta of this shift!
Benefit #5: Decreasing our energy footprint
Spending less time in the office also means fewer car rides and less energy consumption, ranging from air-conditioning to lighting in the office. From this point of view, the 4-day week is not an ecological solution. But it certainly allows companies to lower their energy consumption, and that's always a good thing!
Of course, the transition to the 4-day week is a complex and lengthy process. It first requires an in-depth observation of the work methods and dynamics between the employees of the company in order to move towards progress. This means that better management of the workload and work rate of teams is a priority before considering to reduce the number of working days!
Over and above its attractive promise, this concept encourages a real reappraisal, so as to balance productivity and employee well-being.