The Great Resignation, as it has come to be known, has not only motivated but forced many companies to reevaluate the way they run their businesses and how they treat their employees. The pandemic made so many people realize not only how unhappy they were at their place of employment, but that they deserved better and that they were capable of getting it. In an effort to retain their employees, many companies have begun to offer higher wages and more attractive benefits packages. Now, according to The New York Times, an increasing number of businesses are adopting a 4-day workweek model.
The uptick in the number of companies adopting a 4-day workweek was actually something that started to happen prior to the onset of the pandemic. A study in Iceland that was first conducted in 2015 proved to have astonishing results in terms of employee productivity and overall wellbeing which was enough for the country to implement it as the standard across the board. Additionally, the idea of a 4-day workweek is not novel to countries overseas. The United States has been toying with the idea dating back to 1956. It just kept getting pushed to the back burner any time it looked as though an industry-standard 4-day workweek might actually get implemented.
However, the pandemic just may have been the catalyst to actually allow for the shift from a 5-day to a 4-day workweek to take place. A children’s clothing company called Primary was ahead of the game. Primary started to implement a 4-day work week soon after lockdown forced everyone to work from home. They did so in an attempt to prevent their workers from getting burnt out and reasoned that it would likely give them a better shot at retaining their employees. They were right. In fact, they saw so much success with the new policy that they decided to make it a permanent implementation. Primary’s chief experience officer, Cap Watkins said that he can tell that “people feel recharged on Monday” after having three days to recover.
Additionally, what’s nice about Primary’s 4-day workweek policy is that it doesn’t come with any extra strings attached, meaning that they don’t expect employees to compensate by working longer hours during the week to make up for the loss of Friday’s hours. Primary’s decision not only has served them and their workers well throughout the course of the pandemic but it also has prevented them from losing a large portion of their workforce during the Great Resignation. Whereas other companies saw exponential losses, Primary has only suffered a 7% drop in its workforce.
By all accounts, it seems like the 4-day workweek really does work. Now, big companies like Kickstarter and Shake Shack have announced that they are going to begin testing out the idea. This is all good news. However, it also does pose the question, is a 4-day work week really practical for all industries? Kromann Reumert, a commercial law firm based in Copenhagen, Denmark believes that it is and that the key is to offer a flexible schedule that workers can mold to fit their responsibilities. For instance, a lawyer with a caseload that dictates client appointments be held on the weekends could potentially work Saturday and Sunday and then tailor what days they would work during the week, even electing to work multiple half days instead of full days. “If it’s possible to take days off during the weekend, of course it’s possible to take half a day off or a full day off during the week,” said Birgitte Brix Bendtsen, the head of people and development at the roughly 500-person firm
It is clear that society, and the way it functions, is fundamentally and rapidly evolving. A 4-day workweek is clearly coming to the forefront as a rising star amongst all of these foundational evolutions. Still, at this point, it remains to be seen if and when widespread company adoption will truly become a reality.