everal countries have begun to examine the possibility of a 4 day work week. Recently, the Finnish prime minister — Sanna Marin — stated that conversations in this regard are welcome. Marin sees the recent debacle as an interesting question. She also believes that employees deserve a reward for the improved productivity that society has been experiencing. According to her, there should be trickle-down benefits that affect their work lives.
Marin’s recent visit to Sweden was her first international trip and came a day after her government denied specific reports in the media. The reports stated that the Finnish government was planning on cutting down on working hours drastically.
Marin, 34, admitted that the government has been giving the concept some thought. She also stated that it was a future possibility, as improving technology might impact the working hours of employees. Marin surmises the impact should be felt on all general working conditions, not only on working hours. However, Marin was quick to clarify that the Finnish government was not yet working on the idea for its citizens.
“I BELIEVE PEOPLE DESERVE TO SPEND MORE TIME WITH THEIR FAMILIES, LOVED ONES, HOBBIES, AND OTHER ASPECTS OF LIFE, SUCH AS CULTURE. THIS COULD BE THE NEXT STEP FOR US IN WORKING LIFE”Sanna Marin, Current Prime Minister of Finland
What would it look like?
Several proponents have ideas of what a 4 day work week will be. However, in this context does not refer to an employee who compresses all their working hours into four days. Instead, an employee will only work for 6-7 hours for four days and have a three-day weekend.
Some people wonder how such a radical idea is even possible. But working hours have drastically been reduced since the late 19th century. In 1890, a full-time employee within a manufacturing plant in the USA worked as much as 100 hours a week. By the mid-20th century, a full-time employee only logged 40 hours a week. So while it might seem like a brazen idea now, it is more plausible than you might think.
The real question is, how will the reduction of working hours affect productivity?
What are the Benefits?
“PEOPLE ARE A COMPANY’S GREATEST ASSET”Anne Mulcahy, Former CEO of Xerox Corporation
Innovation is radical; it piques the interests of people that are willing to test the idea for others. In this case, some companies are already trailing the idea of a 4 day work week. From what they have found, it will seem that the idea might have its own merits.
Typically, overworked employees are less productive than employees who work an average of a conventional workweek. To illustrate this, Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand based company, conducted a 4 day work week trial. Employees were able to maintain their productivity level while showing an increase in job satisfaction, company loyalty, teamwork, and work/life balance. The research also reported less stress, with a 7% decrease from 45% to 38%.
Furthermore, a recent study in Britain showed that 2 million people are currently unemployed due to childcare. An impressive 89% of those people are women. However, a 4 day work week will allow this population to participate in the labor force. Since they will have more time to spend at home with their loved ones, more mothers can work too. They will also be able to juggle work commitments better.
Generally, research for a 4 day work week seems to point to a higher chance of better employee engagement. Employees seem more committed, less stressed, more excited and have an all-round better outlook on their work/life relationships.
Are There Any Disadvantages?
While the benefits of a 4 day work week seem undeniable, some of the disadvantages include:
- It might be more expensive to run a 4 day work week schedule. This is especially true for jobs that require people to be involved around the clock.
- Customer dissatisfaction could also be a long-term disadvantage. A study that was conducted in Utah with fantastic results only closed because of complaints from customers. However, technological advances, like AI or chatbots, can solve this problem.
The general positive tilt of research into the 4 day work week is unsurprising. Some of the most productive countries in the world work an average of 27 hours a week. But this is not to say that productivity is exclusive to reduced working hours. Japan is notorious for its overworked employees and still ranks 20th out of the 35 countries on the list. When compared to Germany, Netherlands, Denmark or Norway, it would seem working hours are not relevant to productivity.
Still, the results are undeniable. It will be interesting to see the effect of a 4 day work week on a much larger scale across the world. That way, we can tell if it will boost or have a dwindling effect on productivity.