Is it time for a four-day workweek?

Research shows that a shorter workweek is good for employees and productivity.
By: 
Kristen Sears
Issue: 
Is it time for a four-day workweek?

In 1926, Henry Ford created the five-day workweek. Until then, Ford employees put in 10 hours a day, six days a week. Now, they’d work eight hours a day, Monday to Friday. His competitors thought him mad. But Ford’s productivity shot up. Soon the five-day week became the standard for industry.

A century later, is it time for a shorter week? Professor Tina Dacin thinks so. The pandemic has upended many long-held beliefs about work—like people must be in an office to work effectively. As the “Great Resignation” shows, employees are rethinking how much they want to work, and where. “They’re taking a hard look at their lives—including their jobs—and re-evaluating what’s important to them. In many cases, what’s not important to people is staying in their jobs,” she says.

Dacin believes now is the time for a “Great Experimentation” in work, and that includes trialing a fourday week. Research backs her up. A study out of Henley Business School in the U.K. found that 63 per cent of businesses already implementing the four-day model found it easier to attract and retain the right talent. Seventy-one per cent also said it helped attract and retain employees with children or those with family- care responsibilities.

Research in Iceland, meanwhile, showed improvements across a range of indicators, from perceived employee stress and burnout to health and work-life balance. And it didn’t come at the cost of productivity, which stayed the same or went up.

The four-day week’s time may finally have come. Just Monday to Thursday of course.