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The Four-Day Workweek

four-day-workweek

Employers are weighing whether to adapt to the new age or just say no thank you

By Audrey Hill

The unprecedented changes brought on by COVID-19 opened the doors for a flood of flexibility — remote and hybrid work schedules, new meeting formats every week, and the possibility for limitless adaptations. One that’s gained traction recently: Some companies have experimented with a four-day workweek rather than the traditional five.

The concept of a four-day workweek does not necessarily entail cutting a week of work from 40 to 32 hours. It changes the format of required office time to better fit the needs of an adult in a post-pandemic world. A career feature in Business Insider even warns readers: “Stop thinking about the 4-day workweek as a literal extra day off.” Instead, what it implies is a model in which the standard workweek is four days in the office – with longer hours – and one day of flexibility. This could mean working from home, taking a half day, or having a designated time to take care of appointments and errands.

Business Insider reporter Stephen Jones discussed the New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian giving each of its 230 employees a day off each week in 2018. After an eight-week trial, the company reported a 20% jump in productivity, so a four-day week became a permanent policy. However, implementing four days a week depends largely on the company and its culture.

The Covenant Group

Some people have never heard of the idea, while others consider its effect on their specific workplaces.

“Working longer days would be rough for our students and staff,” said Cathy Anderson, director of human resources and special projects in Greenwood School District 52. “Students in extracurricular activities would have a hard time with required practices being extended past 7 p.m. due to lengthening the work hours a four-day-a-week schedule demands.”

What a four-day workweek could look like

Anderson does see possible benefits, however. She thinks the policy would give staff an extra day to take care of things outside of work, and the district could give them incentives during onboarding.

Employees and managers recognize that there is no one right way to implement a flexible schedule like this, but there are several different ways to make it work.

“I think working 10 hours for four days would be exhausting and leave little time in the day for any other meaningful tasks,” said Kathy Locklear, director of general accounting at the University of South Carolina. “But most of this could be eliminated if the employees were allowed to work from home. Then I think it would be a great alternative to a traditional five-day workweek.”

There are hundreds of moving pieces to consider for any team or company looking to make the shift from the traditional model to a four-day workweek. The most important thing to remember is that workplace culture has been evolving rapidly since COVID-19. Making necessary changes or keeping current effective policies can be vital to maintaining a company’s culture.

“Problems don’t disappear because it’s a Friday or Monday,” said Locklear. “I suppose an alternative to this would be a staggered four-day workweek where there is someone available every day.”

Audrey Hill is a 2021 graduate of the University of South Carolina.