top of page

The Pros and Cons of a Four Day Work Week in the Tech World

History of the Work Week


Why do we work what we work? Certainly we have been working 9 to 5 long before Dolly Parton’s 1980 hit single. In the early days of the 20th Century many Americans were working 10 hour days from Monday through Saturday totaling 60 hours per week. Labor unions had been fighting for the 8 hour work day since the conclusion The Civil War to no avail. However, on May 1, 1926 a major shift in labor took place. Legendary innovator Henry Ford of Ford Motor Company implemented a 40-hour work week for his employees. His rationale was simple. Ford believed that overworked employees were less productive and also believed that the additional day off would lead to increased spending by workers that would perhaps benefit his own company. Many companies followed suit and in 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed The Fair Labor Standards Act which made the 40-hour work week law.



So what’s happened since then? Has there been any progress in reducing the number of hours worked even more since the 40-hour work week has been signed into law? The fight for an even shorter work week has actually been going on longer than you think! In 1956 Vice President Richard Nixon said in the “not too distant future” that people would be working four days per week. A lot has happened since 1956 and many have shifted from working in industries such as manufacturing to the technology industry. Almost seventy years later many people still are not experiencing Nixon’s prophecy. However, post-pandemic there has been several shifts in the philosophy of work. One of them is the willingness of companies to adopt a four day work week. According to an EY Survey, 40% of companies have a plan in place to implement a four day work week. This means a debate exists and companies really need to start thinking about whether or not to implement this new schedule. Many wonder what the pros and cons of a four day work week are.

Pros of a 4 Day Work Week

  • Improved Work-Life Balance- There is something that is psychologically pleasing and attractive about shifting work from five days per week down to four. Even if the same number of hours are worked per week, having an entire extra day for leisure is a great benefit. Having four days for labor and four days for recreation is the balance that is mirrored by the 8 hour work day (8 hours working, 8 for rest, 8 for recreation). Many have said that having one day to accomplish tasks, one day to rest and one day to spend time with friends and family would make for a perfectly balanced life. An increased work life balance overall could lead to more satisfied employees.

  • Productivity- The big question for many companies is whether moving to a four day work week would decrease the amount of work output as a company as a whole. In February 2022, 4 Day Week Global started to organize an experiment that saw 33 companies shift from work a 5 day, 40 hour week to a 4 day, 32 hour week with no decrease in salary. The goal of the study was to support that in 80% of cases decreasing the workload of an employee would result in no loss of productivity. The results of the experiment were overwhelmingly positive. Companies in the program saw an increase in revenue and employees reported a higher job satisfaction on the 32 hour schedule rather than a 40 hour schedule. This study shined a light to many companies and over 100 companies used this study to support their plans in implementing a four day work week. This might seem like it is too good to be true, but it may be that the 40 hour work week is an outdated relic of the past and most employers are simply wasting their employees time. A Harris survey from 2014 revealed that employees only spend 45% of their work day on primary job duties. The rest of time was spent on menial tasks such as checking emails or participating in meetings. It seems from the survey that employers are paying to waste their own employees’ time.

  • Increased Well-Being of Employees- It is important that employees are mentally and physically healthy in order for them to be productive. The same 4 Day Week Global Study found that absenteeism was down by 66% when switching to a 32 hour week. This could be due to the fact that employees had an extra day to make appointments or take care of personal business, but also that they were getting sick less as physical and mental burnout can lead to physical health effects that such as high blood pressure and heart disease. People actually may be working more if a four day work week is adopted.


  • Increased Opportunities for Creativity- Sometimes mental and physical exhaustion causes humans to be less creative and more inclined to just go through the motions and accomplish a task in the most direct way possible. That may be fine for factory workers, but in a high paced environment like tech, creativity and innovation is required. Some of the best ideas in technology came from a time when employees are less stressed. It is why Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped their opportunities for a Harvard education in order to develop Microsoft and Facebook respectively. You cannot have genius while burning a candle at both ends.

  • Gaining a Higher Quality Field of Candidates-Technology is a growing, yet established field and many companies are competing for the best candidates. A four day work week that offers no decline in salary would certainly generate more interest from the most desired candidates. In the 4 Day Week Global Study applications to companies offering the four day work week increased by 88%. For employees who already experienced the four day work week, 90% of those workers wanted to continue on that schedule and 15% of employees said they would never switch back to a five day work week regardless of the salary. It seems that many especially in the younger generation value their time more than money, so in order to attract recent graduates it may be wise to switch to the 4 day work week especially if studies show that no productivity is lost.

Cons of a 4 Day Work Week

  • Extended Working Hours- Certainly the 4 Day Week Global Study showed that productivity could be improved by limiting the amount of hours in a work week. However, what if a person cannot get the appropriate amount of work done in 32 hours? Many jobs truly do require more than 32 hours per week to complete. If offices are closed for three days a week that person may have to stay later which could conflict with evening plans or appointments. Working longer days can also lead to burn out and the physical health effects previously mentioned.


  • Difficulty Scheduling Collaborative Planning Time- While some meetings may be considered “time wasters” it is always good to schedule a day of the week to have a team meeting to notify all members about key targets and deadlines needed to be met as well as collaboratively planning how to accomplish a task or working on a task as a team. With one less day during the week to hold such collaborative sessions it becomes more cumbersome to hold a group meeting. This is especially true if you work in a large team as multiple people could be absent from that meeting if they are off work that day with no time to make up the meeting later in the week.


  • Reduced Customer Service Availability- In the tech world it is great to think about your employees, but you also must think about your clients. While your office may shift to a four day work week several of your clients’ offices may still have their offices open five days per week. This means that no one will be there to support them for 20% of their time. If that is the case, clients may look to make changes and choose to give their business to someone who is more ready and available to support their needs. While a four day work week may good in theory it is crucial that all members of your operation (employers, employees and clients) are all on the same page with this plan. In many cases they may not be.


  • Increase Possibility of Missed Deadlines or Delays in Projects- While a four day work week may be very feasible for some industries in others it may simply not be doable. According to data from Spiceworks the average full time “tech pro” logs about 52 hours of work per week with 18% saying they logged more than 60 hours on average. In this case longer hours with a four day work week would even be impossible as the average expert would have to log 13 hour days in order to get the same amount of work done. Certainly reducing a “tech pro’s” hours by twenty per week would lead to that worker being less stressed, but it’s hard to imagine the same level of productivity in the face of that much of a reduction of hours.


  • Possible Reduction in Salary- Certainly if production is the same workers may be able to keep the same compensation. However, in industries like tech this probably will not be the case. An option of a four day, 32 hour work week could be offered, but it will obviously have to come with a reduction in salary. Many workers obviously would be opposed to severely cutting their salary in the name of work-life balance

Conclusion


There are certainly advantages and disadvantages of shifting an office to a four day work week. On one hand studies have shown that the four day work week can lead to happier and healthier employees. As shown by the 4 Day Week Global Study productivity could stay the same or even increase during the 4 Day Work Week. Creative ideas could flourish with employees being less burnt out and more job applications from higher qualified people will flow in. There is a burning desire from workers to shift to a 32 hour work week and many value the work-life balance over financial compensation.


While it’s true that some industries could benefit from a reduction of hours without the a drop in production that may not be true for the tech industry. The tech industry requires hours upon hours of manufacturing, support, research and development of technology. It is an industry that has a strong correlation of the time put in and production. In the area of tech support one could have clients all over the world and be readily available to support them if not 24/7 then as many hours as possible as the tech industry is expanding more and more each day and more competition for clients arises.

What we have in this debate of a four day work week is a classic battle between employees and clients. Employees certainly seem to benefit from the four day work week and the quality of their work may be better. However, with clients it may be difficult to keep them satisfied and justify having employees work 32 hour weeks.

There is no correct solution to this debate. What needs to be cautioned though is that doing things simply because “that’s how it’s always been done” is simply not acceptable. If employees need to work 40 hours a week to achieve an acceptable level of production so be it. However, if work time can be reduced and production can be kept the same why burn your employees out? Certainly employees will look for greener pastures if they feel like their time is being wasted. A four day work week when appropriate should be implemented to keep morale high. It is up to the employer to be open minded and decide whether a four day work week is appropriate.

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page