Employees want more freedom, flexibility and better work-life balance — and a shorter workweek could be the answer, according to one of the world’s largest four-day workweek trials. The question is: Are company leaders ready to make this shift?
he results are in. The four-day workweek is looking to become the new workplace model that could help companies and organizations shift their office culture providing employees with improved work-life balance and increased job satisfaction.
Following one of the world’s largest four-day workweek trials, results showed that employees expressed lower levels of burnout and improved-work life balance, all the while companies noticed an increase in productivity and revenue.
The trial, which was organized by 4 Day Week Global (4DWG), a nonprofit organization, included around 3,000 workers across 61 companies in the United Kingdom. Organizers claim that around 92% of the 61 participating companies have continued with the four-day workweek since the trials ended, which started back in June 2022.
The concluding results revealed that around 55% of workers reported having an increased ability to work, and 90% said they want to continue working a four-day workweek. The experiment tested employees’ ability to work 80% of their time — still receiving the same pay — in exchange for 100% of their usual output.
The changing workplace
Ever since the onset of the pandemic, which allowed more employees to work from home or hybrid, workers have expressed their increased need for improved schedule flexibility and overall autonomy.
This is especially true for most employees who have since the start of the pandemic, left jobs and positions that didn’t necessarily cater to their increased demand for better work-life balance.
Two different studies in the U.S. and the United Kingdom revealed that employees find work-life balance more important than being paid more. According to the FlexJobs 2022 Career Pulse Survey of more than 4,000 American employees, 63% said that work-life balance is more important than better pay. In the U.K., similar results showed that 65% of job seekers prioritize improved work-life balance rather than increased pay benefits.
The urgency to draw employees back to the workplace, after seeing them leave the labor market in droves has meant that employers had to become more innovative and creative in their workplace policies to provide workers with improved benefits that suit their needs.
What the four-day workweek can do for employees
Shortening the standard 9-5 work week is a concept that a growing number of companies are now starting to pick up — and for burnt-out employees, this could help improve their work-life balance and mental well-being, as well as help decrease their levels of burnout.
Better work-life balance
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, one-third of all working mothers either scaled back or left their jobs permanently. Women who temporarily left their careers in the rearview managed to take up more family and childcare-related responsibilities at home. Working mothers that continued working from home during the pandemic, managed to balance both work and family care duties but experienced higher levels of burnout.
More alarmingly, a study in the U.S. showed that nearly six in ten labor participants have self-reported feeling at least moderate levels of burnout, this is higher than at the height of the pandemic.
Further insights show that the majority of employees — 86% — that have reported higher levels of burnout are also suffering from other problems such as mental health challenges, anxiety and trouble sleeping. A shorter workweek would mean that employees will need to do a lot more in less time, but it would create an opportunity for them to properly recover and have increased flexibility to manage work and personal duties equally.
Improved equity at home
Following the most recent four-day workweek trial, organizers found that participants, both men and women, had an overwhelmingly positive experience with having more time available to spend at home or take up more family-related responsibilities.
For female workers, they experienced lower levels of burnout and there was an increase in job and life satisfaction, better mental health and reduced commuting. On top of this, results also showed that the shorter working week allowed more men to spend time at home and take up more family care duties. Time males spent at home looking after children increased by 27%, while by comparison, women reported seeing an increase of 13% in childcare.
Having working parents spend more time at home, allows them an opportunity to initiate greater balance in terms of household duties and childcare responsibilities.
What’s more, 62% of women and 65% of men would prefer working a compressed week, while being paid for a full week. This not only gives them more time to rest, but it also improves their schedule flexibility and helps to improve their overall autonomy.
Taking more autonomy and control
While the number of women and women of color in leadership roles has gradually increased over the last several years, fewer of them still hold leadership positions compared to their male peers. Research shows that for every 100 men that receive a leadership promotion, only 87 women and 82 women of color will be offered a similar promotion.
In a similar vein, there has also been a decrease of male labor force participation in recent years, even well before the pandemic became a reality. Studies revealed that the participation rates of prime-aged men — those aged between 25 and 40 — have been trending downward since 2003. This follows a decreasing trend that already started back in the 1960s.
But overall, there has been a shift in the demographic labor force participation, with both white men and white women of all ages participating less. Progressive changes in the way employers structure and employ new recruits have allowed for more accessible opportunities to employees from different social and economic backgrounds.
Yet this, however, does not resolve the issues that come back to ensuring the overall well-being of employees in the long term, and this includes workers from all backgrounds.
Providing more balance in employees’ lives would give them a better opportunity to level out the playing field in the workplace. Having a better work-life balance means that both women and men can focus on important matters such as childcare and work, equally.
What’s more, studies have shown that since the onset of remote and hybrid work, a growing number of working parents (68%) have said that they are more willing to look for a job that can provide them with improved autonomy and scheduling flexibility for childcare needs.
To finish off
Employees want more freedom and better control of their work-life balance. This includes the ability to work remotely or even potentially follow a hybrid working model, which can ultimately give them more control over how they schedule their days to achieve the desired work-life balance.
While the four-day workweek is a concept many companies are slowly adapting, organizations will need to be more creative and innovative if they seek to draw in highly talented employees. Not only does the four-day workweek provide employees with an array of benefits, but it shows to help them find improved work-life balance and helps to level out the playing field which has previously left some employees being disadvantaged.