HR Trends • 5 min reading

Is the 4-day work week realistic?

There’s no denying it, the job market is undergoing a revolution. Remote working, hybrid working, flexible working hours, and the reorganization of office space are not the only elements marking this transition. More and more companies are considering adopting the 4-day work week. But why? And is it realistic?

While the four-day week may be a “trendy” topic, its application may not always be straightforward. So, how do you know whether the 4-day work week is realistic for your organization?

Here’s some food for thought.

A Worldwide Movement?

remote work worldwide movement

The four-day week has been described as a worldwide movement. Once unthinkable, this new trend is gaining momentum. Indeed, numerous experiments are being conducted or have been conducted on the phenomenon in various countries, including Iceland, Spain, Japan, Scotland, and New Zealand. And more and more companies are taking an interest in the benefits that seem to flow from it.

Advantages of the 4-Day Work Week

At a time when the labor shortage is one of the main challenges facing today’s job market the four-day week may seem an attractive solution. Here are a few key arguments in favor of this new approach:

  1. Attracting and retaining talent: Faced with labor shortages, offering a four-day week proves to be a major asset in attracting and retaining employees. A Forbes survey indicates that 75% of people would be willing to change jobs to benefit from this arrangement.
  2. Enhanced well-being: The four-day week helps reduce stress and burnout, improving workers’ mental and physical health.
  3. Better work-life balance: This arrangement offers flexibility that promotes a healthier balance between work obligations and personal activities, particularly benefiting families.
  4. Gender equity: By facilitating work-life balance, the four-day week helps reduce inequalities between men and women in the workplace.
  5. Sustained or improved productivity: Contrary to fears, productivity can be maintained or even increased with a reduced working week. In fact, company experience shows that productivity actually increases after a period of adjustment.
  6. Reduced operational costs: For companies, one less working day can mean substantial savings in energy costs, office space rental, and other fixed costs.
  7. Positive environmental impact: Fewer working days can lead to less travel, helping to reduce employees’ carbon footprint.
  8. Increased motivation and commitment: The anticipation of an extended weekend each week can boost employee morale, increasing their motivation and commitment to the company.
  9. Attractiveness for employees approaching retirement: This approach can encourage mature employees to remain active in the workforce for longer, offering them a better work-life balance.
  10. Innovation and creativity: Extra time away from work allows employees to rest and recharge, which can encourage creative thinking and innovation when back in the office.

All in all, the four-day week seems to offer a range of benefits that meet the needs of both employees and employers, suggesting that such a model could be a way forward for many sectors.

Disadvantages of the 4-Day Work Week

While the idea of a shorter working week may sound like a dream, it’s not without its own complications. Here are just a few of the pitfalls companies and their teams could encounter:

  1. Delicate work-life balance: While compressing 40 hours into 4 days may sound appealing, for some, it could turn every working day into an exhausting marathon, doing more harm than good to work-life balance.
  2. Not for all sectors: Some industries and roles simply can’t afford to close up shop for an extra day a week, highlighting questions of fairness and feasibility across different areas of activity.
  3. Risk of work overload: The myth of increased productivity can clash with the reality of unchanged expectations, driving some to work on their “day off” to stay afloat.
  4. Team cohesion tested: Less time spent together can mean fewer opportunities to build team spirit, a crucial element for a strong corporate culture.
  5. Logistical complications: Reorganizing schedules, adapting project cycles, and even rethinking internal communication can introduce a significant level of complexity for managers.
  6. Customers in limbo: Adapting schedules could confuse customers or partners used to 5-day-a-week availability, potentially jeopardizing certain business relationships.
  7. More complex human resources management: From vacation planning to compensation and overtime tracking, HR staff could be faced with an unprecedented administrative headache.
  8. Pressure on results: With one less working day, the pressure to deliver may intensify, potentially jeopardizing the quality of work and the well-being of employees.
  9. Financial uncertainty: Without a pay cut, companies must find ways to maintain profitability, a major challenge in tight economic conditions.
  10. Mixed experiences: While some companies report resounding success, others report unforeseen difficulties, underlining that there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

These challenges are not insurmountable, but they do require careful thought and meticulous planning. The 4-day work week, while attractive, may not be the panacea for all the ills of today’s working world.

Different Formats for the 4-Day Work Week

Although we often talk about the four-day week, what we’re really talking about is the reorganization of working hours. There are many different ways of achieving this. Various formulas have been adopted, including the following:

  • 4-day week: i.e. all the original hours spread over 4 days
  • 4-day week: a reduction in hours, for example from 40 to 36 hours, spread over 4 days
  • 4-and-a-half-day week
  • 4-day week, every other week
  • Fewer hours per day spread over 5 days
  • Summer hours, sometimes longer than before
  • Reduced working hours for early retirees
  • Etc.

Regardless of the formula chosen, companies do not systematically adjust employee remuneration downwards. Most organizations abroad opt to maintain the initial salary, which seems to be less the case in Quebec. It’s a tricky question, of course, but experience suggests that this approach, which may seem counterintuitive at first glance, is actually beneficial.

And How Do You Set It Up?

how to set up 4-day work week?

The Consultation Committee

Obviously, before setting up a four-day week, it’s important to analyze the feasibility and define the purpose of such an arrangement. Some advise setting up a consultation committee and starting with a pilot project. Of course, others point out that offering this possibility and then withdrawing it can be risky.

Providing Managers with the Right Tools

What’s more, once adopted, this approach requires managers to acquire the right tools to assess gains or losses over the medium and long term. Relying on employee results rather than the number of hours worked may be one way of proceeding.

An “Intelligent” Revision of the Working Method

In any case, the introduction of the four-day week calls for a rethinking of working methods, a profound change. We’re talking about working smarter, not harder. Automation, reducing the amount of time spent in meetings, etc., are just a few of the avenues to be explored for greater efficiency.

Whatever the case, reorganizing working time means managing change. And not just for employees and managers! You also need to anticipate customer reactions.

Don’t Be Afraid to Think about Compensation

Of course, when you change your working hours, you need to rethink your remuneration, especially for vacations and for people working part-time. And that can quickly become a headache.

Companies That Have Tried the 4-Day Work Week

Companies such as Sensei Labs and L’Abri, and even Praxis, have tried out the 4-day work week. Since then, they have seen some significant benefits, such as:

  • Reduced demand for personal leave and sick leave;
  • Improved efficiency, with no negative impact on company revenues;
  • And improved employee focus.

These positive results are consistent with other studies, but it’s important to remember that these companies are still in the early stages of this new approach. In this sense, experts recommend that more studies be carried out before the benefits of this transition can be conclusively ascertained.

While some believe that a four-day week is possible for everyone, it’s probably not yet the case for all sectors.


Follow our blog posts and subscribe to our newsletter for more articles and insights on the ever-changing job market and trends.

Subscribe to radar

Subscribe to radar for occasional updates on upcoming events, major announcements, and exclusive opportunities, ensuring you're always in the loop with our latest happenings!