On a typical Friday afternoon, an employee at Emtrain, a California human resources technology company, takes a nap.
Another is taking horseback riding lessons, a hobby they’ve always wanted to try but never had the time. Others use their Fridays to learn the piano, practice photography, or visit family members they haven’t seen in a while.
You can do this because Emtrain launched a pilot program with a four-day workweek in 2021, one of many companies around the world experimenting with a new way of working.
Even the boss likes it. “It was very, very touching to see how much time people had back in their lives,” said Odessa Jenkins, President of Emtrain. “We keep hearing stories of our employees learning something new, engaging with family that they didn’t have before, and it’s really changing the way they live their lives.”
Successful pilots of the four-day workweek both in the US and abroad have identified a variety of benefits for both companies and employees, including improved employee well-being, increased productivity and a new way to keep and recruit talent competitively Labour market.
We asked three executives and a Fortune 500 executive coach why four-day work weeks are becoming more popular. Here’s what they say, the key benefits of this new way of working — and how to effectively convince your boss of the idea.
Employees have more time outside of work
A four-day work week gives employees back one of their most valuable resources: time.
After Emtrain switched to a four-day work week, Jenkins was impressed with the impact the change had on her team.
“When you give your employees more time to do what they want to do – to find out things about themselves, to explore – you get an employee base that is more committed to you, but also to their personal health,” said Jenkins. “This brings us healthier and happier employees.”
Katie Klumper, CEO of Black Glass Consulting, a New York-based CMO consultancy, said she saw similar results at Black Glass during its four-day workweek pilot. Many of their employees use their free Friday as a “personal admin” day to take care of basic tasks like laundry, shopping or cleaning.
“It really gives them a two-day break [on the weekend]which allows them to have four days [at work] refreshed, present, focused and more productive,” said Klumper.
Having more face-to-face time can also promote positive employee mental health outcomes at a time when burnout is on the rise. “It’s incredibly helpful for people’s mental health and well-being to know they now have an extra day to just unwind [do life]said Dr. Daryl Appleton, a licensed psychotherapist and Fortune 500 executive coach.
Productivity is often improved
A four-day work week forces you to be more efficient in all aspects of your job, including communication, Jenkins said. “It means making a commitment to be very, very focused at work. And we saw that immediately in our employee base.”
According to an internal company survey, 92% of Emtrain employees agreed they were able to achieve their key work milestones during the four-day workweek. Odessa has also not seen an increase in employees working longer hours. “It’s maybe more focused work, not more work,” Jenkins said.
Klumper said the move to a four-day workweek has made her team more conscious of how they manage their limited time at work.
“Time is one of the most valuable commodities we have as professionals and valuing that and being really aware of where you’re applying was definitely an asset,” she said. “It wasn’t built for longer workdays. It was supposed to be the same hours we worked but in four days.”
The other piece is focus, Klumper said. Working to a tighter schedule has helped her employees hone their craft and skills to get their jobs done faster. “There were a lot of positive results in terms of teams being able to collaborate faster and be much more focused and focused on getting work done,” she said.
It helps attract and retain talent in a competitive job market
In a 2022 survey conducted by Forbes Health-Ipsos Monthly Health Tracker, 90% of employed respondents said it was important for their job to offer a work-life balance. And 82% said it’s important that their job offers flexibility in working hours.
“I think if the Great Resignation has taught us anything, it’s that when people have the opportunity to kick back, they want to join companies that they feel will support the lifestyle they want to live said Anthony Reynolds, CEO of Utah-based talent experience platform HireVue. (Instead of a four-day work week, HireVue gives its employees every other Friday afternoon off.)
Enabling more flexibility in the workplace can also help companies retain existing employees and help workers reach their maximum potential.
“It was a huge talent driver,” said Klumper. “People are responsible. If you have the right people on the team, you could do something every day [paid time off] and they would still join because they are passionate about the business. … If you have the right talent, they will get the job done, and they will do an even better job if they can do it on their terms.
Both the employees and the company benefit from this
“It’s difficult to say [the four-day work week pilot] Not beneficial from both a qualitative and quantitative perspective because we’re also exceeding our business goals,” Jenkins said.
According to an internal survey, 82% of Emtrain employees said the four-day work week made them feel healthier and more comfortable, while 71% to 75% of employees reported experiencing less unproductive stress at work.
Emtrain is not alone. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, 60% of organizations surveyed that had implemented a four-day workweek found that fewer meetings increased employee satisfaction and productivity.
The non-profit organization 4 Day Week Global, which is running a pilot program helping over 70 UK companies test a four-day work week, also reported similar findings in its latest survey of participating organisations. According to the survey, 88% of respondents said the four-day work week was working “well” for their organization three months into the six-month trial period. Additionally, 95% of respondents said productivity had remained the same or improved, and 86% said they would “probably” consider maintaining the four-day-week policy after the end of the study .
How to suggest a four-day week to your boss
Unless you’re a senior executive at your company, attempting a four-day workweek will likely require you to get your executive on board. Here are some expert tips for the most effective ways to present the idea.
1. Compile the data
Before you propose an idea to your organization’s leadership, do your research, Appleton said. Gather the data and resources, and most importantly, be prepared to explain why your idea is important.
“That’s the thing about leadership — they don’t want more work,” Appleton said. “Come prepared with whatever you have on the table because this might be the only chance you get.”
2. Consider how a four-day workweek fits into your company’s existing values
Most “new” ideas are simply an iteration of something we’ve seen before, Jenkins said. Look at your company’s existing core values and see if any of them fit naturally with a more flexible schedule or a four-day work week.
For example, Emtrain already had an unlimited PTO policy prior to its four-day workweek pilot, which meant the company was already used to not having employees in the office on a strict schedule. The move to a four-day workweek was just another step in the same direction for a company that has made flexibility one of its core values.
“[Ask yourself] What are the things that you already have in your organization that could lead to and reinforce more flexible work,” Jenkins said.
3. Focus on business goals and objectives
At the end of the day, you need to show your boss how the company benefits from a four-day work week. Gather success stories from other companies similar to the ones you work at and be prepared to demonstrate how your proposal will increase or sustain profits while potentially reducing costs and increasing productivity.
“Come up with a proposal that focuses on establishing success and then moving forward from that success,” Jenkins said. “It always looks very consumable [a leadership team’s perspective]. When you bring me something as a leader that feels like less risk, more reward, and proven, it becomes very hard for me to say no.”
4. Propose a pilot program
If your leadership is reluctant to implement such a big change, starting with a temporary pilot is a good way to get your head around a four-day workweek.
“Start slow,” advises Jenkins. “Don’t try to take your business faster or further than it may be ready.
Emtrain and Black Glass both piloted their four-day workweek programs, and HireVue did the same with its bi-weekly half-day Friday schedule.
If you’re looking to get started, nonprofit organization 4 Day Week Global is coordinating six-month pilot programs that provide training, mentoring, and research for organizations interested in trying a four-day workweek.