The Ugly Truth About The 4-Day Work Week
The 4-day work week is dominating career conversations. Major companies around the world are adopting the new adjusted work schedule, with a majority of them citing real benefits to their workforce.
In many aspects, the 4-day work week sounds glamorous: less time spent online or in the office; more time spent on personal activities; three-day weekends every week; a better work-life balance.
And many of the conversations about the four-day work week focus on these glamorous elements. Workers in Iceland who took on a four-day work week reported better work-life balance and even a more positive attitude at work. Workers in New Zealand with a four-day work week were 20% more productive than when they worked a full-day work week.
While the four-day work week has gotten some buzz because of these positive effects, not everyone’s buzzed about the idea of bringing it to their work life. Many workers worry — reasonably — about time and productivity. To them, a four-day work week sounds more like 40 hours or more condensed into four days; and those days are filled with overwork, struggles to meet deadlines and even more stress.
Those are the same concerns the company Buffer ran into when adjusting to a four-day work week. In the first month, most teams focused on how they could cram all of their five-day work into the new four days.
Unsurprisingly, that mindset didn’t work — but Buffer didn’t give up on the four-day work week.
“To get everyone closer to a 32-hour four-day work week, they had to change how they worked,” Jennifer Liu reports for CNBC Make It. “Buffer teams cut down on meetings…moved to asynchronous communication tools like Threads, and adjusted expectations of how long it would take to meet project deadlines.”
As they cut down on meetings, they found employees felt less engaged because they weren’t getting as much social interaction. Instead of reverting to what they had before, Buffer instead planned outside virtual social events so employees could have opportunities to connect.
Adopting a four-day work week isn’t as easy as giving your team Fridays off. Like how many managers and employees worked hard to adjust to remote work — and how many still are adjusting — the four-day work week requires a lot of effort and adjustment, too.
It requires reassessing meetings, workflows, deadlines and team communication. It means analyzing resources, employee productivity and engagement. It’s not just a schedule shift; it’s a cultural one.
And even as Buffer stumbled with their shift, 91% of its employees report being happier and more productive with the four-day work week. They just needed to make some serious changes and adjustments to make it work.
“The conversation has been less about ‘should we continue?’ but rather ‘how do we make this work for us?’” Hailley Griffis, Buffer’s head of public relations, said to CNBC Make It.
The ugly truth of the four-day work week isn’t the work week itself. It’s the work that’s required to make it work — and not everybody’s ready, or willing, to do it.