4-Day Week: Everything You Need to Know (& Top Employers Hiring)
Let’s talk about a 4-day week. Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!
It’s no secret the notion of a 4-day week in the workplace is trending globally. What’s a four-day workweek all about? As a job seeker, how can you find a position working four days or 32 hours per week but earning the same salary and benefits as you currently do for 40 hours per week? Is this just a pipe dream, or could it be a reality for you?
4-Day Week Research
When governments start implementing new ideas, it’s no longer a pipe dream—it’s a reality. Many governments are not simply cramming 40 hours into four days. They’re also not reducing hours—and thereby, reducing pay. They’re paying employees the same salary (and affording the same benefits) for working 32 hours as they made for working 40 hours per week.
The shift to a four-day workweek is happening all over the world. Governments in Spain, Scotland, the UK, Japan, New Zealand, and UAE have all either implemented shorter workweeks or have plans to implement four-day workweek trials. Even many private sector companies in the United States have begun implementing four-day workweeks.
A private New Zealand firm, Perpetual Guardian, cut working hours by 20%. The results? A 20% boost in productivity. And employees spent 35% less time on non-work websites.
This outcome isn’t unique to Perpetual Guardian. Microsoft Japan piloted a four-day workweek program in 2019 and gained 40% in productivity. In Iceland, trials demonstrated that productivity remained the same or increased but never decreased after implementing a four-day workweek.
Even though initial data is promising, many companies are hesitant to implement four-day workweeks. Some are concerned about ensuring equity amongst pay grades and role types. Many are worried about ensuring availability for clients. Others don’t feel compelled to pay employees the same salary for 32 hours as they currently do for 40 hours. Obviously, there are still aspects to a 32-hour workweek that present cause for pause.
But despite the hesitancy of many, this trend is picking up steam, not slowing down. As a job seeker, which companies can you pursue if you desire to work only 32 hours per week? Why would you even consider working only 32 hours per week rather than 40? What questions should you ask to help you discern how the policy really works for individual companies?
Motivations for a 4-Day Week
Recently, organizational psychologist Adam Grant hosted a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos featuring multiple experts around the global economy, workplace trends, and the implementation of four-day workweeks. The panel included Hillary Cottam, Jonas Prising, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Ohood Al Rumi. Panelists highlighted various motivations employers may have for implementing four-day workweeks. Job seekers, in turn, may be motivated by the same four factors.
Many companies are globally minded and thus environmentally conscious. The Washington Post recently posited that eliminating travel expenses to and from companies’ physical locations, even by one day in the workweek, can significantly lower emissions. In fact, only a 10% reduction in work hours could result in drops in ecological footprint, carbon footprint, and carbon dioxide emissions by 12.1%, 14.6%, and 4.2%, respectively. In addition, cooking at home produces fewer emissions than purchasing and consuming food from restaurants.
The desire to promote environmentally conscious policies has also led many employers to give employees options regarding remote or hybrid working. If you’re searching for a job and you care about the impact your lifestyle has on the environment, working remotely or working fewer hours on-site may be the right choice for you.
Opening and running a physical location costs companies. Purchasing electricity isn’t cheap, and studies show that reducing work hours in a physical location reduces energy use significantly—by 20%. In addition, using a building less frequently saves companies on other expenditures, including security costs, water bills, and amenities and perks for employees.
Even if companies opt to remain traditional, on-site businesses, reducing hours or eliminating a workday can result in significant savings company-wide. Job seekers who want to reduce their carbon footprint and save money at the same time will find the four-day workweek appealing.
Employers have noticed a dip in productivity and an increase in burnout since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. They’ve been scrambling to remedy these issues ever since. The four-day workweek global trials indicate that if you want to improve productivity, you should require employees to work fewer hours.
It sounds counterintuitive, but the data is clear. For example, United Arab Emirates (UAE) initiated a four-day workweek trial within the confines of government entities in January 2022. The results? 70% of employees reported improved efficiency. Government entities noted a 55% reduction in absenteeism.
If you’re the type of worker who prefers to accomplish as much as possible in a short period to free up time for things you enjoy, the four-day workweek may be a great fit for you.
Hillary Cottam, the author of Radical Help, proposes that the four-day workweek is just a starting point and not just a luxury, but a necessity.
“Four days is a male solution to this problem because, basically, it doesn’t think about care. Because the care of our children or our parents or just being with friends doesn’t happen in four days. It happens around the day. So what we actually need to do is rethink the boundaries of time between work and care. Rethinking the linear life, of course, doesn’t mean just the work study kind of in blocks, and maybe we need some new boundaries,” Cottam suggests.
Along these lines, Anne-Marie Slaughter of New America imagines the four-day workweek as “32 hours distributed as necessary,” not strictly four literal days to work. Reducing the total hours worked per week by eight provides all employees—and leaders, too—with much-needed time.
Each employee can choose to spend the time as needed to care for others and for themselves. Whether you want to carve out time to spend with family or friends, to kickstart a new hobby, or to invest in your own professional growth and development, you may benefit from a 32-hour workweek.
Finding a 4-Day Week Employer
Obviously, there are benefits to a four-day workweek both for organizations, managers, and employees. If you’re searching for a job, and you want to get on board with the four-day workweek notion, where should you start?
First, recognize you’re not alone. One survey of people ages 22-35 who quit their jobs found that 32% might have stayed if they’d been offered the choice to work only 32 hours per week instead of 40. A second survey polled 1,000 respondents. 95.4% of respondents desire a four-day workweek.
To get a 32-hour workweek, 74% claimed they would be willing to quit their current job. And a FlexJobs poll recently found that 66% of those polled would rather have the option to work four days than earn a 20% pay increase.
Narrow Your Search
Consider looking for jobs with companies offering greater flexibility and even four-day workweeks. Some of those companies are:
Ask for What You Want
If you’re offered a great job by a company without a four-day workweek policy, why not ask for it anyway?
It’s important to advocate for your own career needs and wants during the hiring process, especially during the negotiation period. Keep in mind that most companies with four-day workweeks aren’t offering lower salaries for those working 32 hours versus 40. Don’t sell yourself short during a salary negotiation, either. Propose a trial period of three to six months. If you have proven you can maintain desired productivity and efficiency, and you are completing all tasks and projects on time, perhaps your potential employer will be open to giving it a try.
If the employer says no, you can choose whether to accept or reject the job role with the 40-hour requirement.
Demonstrate Strong Time-Management Skills
If you can demonstrate and showcase strong time-management skills during your job interviews, employers may be more open-minded about allowing you to work fewer hours at the same level of compensation. You can demonstrate great time-management skills by sharing examples of projects you completed ahead of schedule or on time in spite of obstacles. Remember when sharing examples that employers cannot read your mind. Be as specific as possible.
Job Search Priorities
Ultimately, all job seekers must decide what matters most to them and make choices accordingly. If you’re most concerned with earning a specific salary, you’ll be more willing to compromise your desire for flexibility and time with family and friends. Dig in deep and consider all aspects of career fulfillment before accepting or rejecting job offers.
If employers are hesitant to get on board with the four-day workweek idea, maybe job seekers can pave the way instead by rejecting traditional workplace schedules and opting to focus on flexibility and wellness.