Support for a four-day workweek has slowly been building over the last two years of the pandemic, as employees around the world have been granted greater work-from-home flexibility and employers struggle to keep workers happy during the Great Resignation. In fact, companies in Europe have already begun to implement this policy and workers for the few U.S. companies who have tried it seem to generally approve.
We asked 1,300 U.S.-based business owners if they plan to explore this revolutionary option, and found that:
- 27% of business owners have already switched to a four-day workweek
- An additional 35% are considering making the move to a four-day workweek
- Of those who haven’t yet switched but plan to, 86% say the change will happen in 2023
Digital.com’s small business expert, Dennis Consorte said, “The five-day work-week is a remnant of the industrial era. It was a way to reduce people’s shifts from even longer work-weeks, partly for religious reasons. I would argue that it was also due to better technology that required less human activity.”
“Today, automation means that machines can handle even more of the workload compared to the past,” he continued. “People are already shifting towards roles where they bring value through decision-making and creativity, rather than tedious, repeatable tasks. Automation makes shorter work-weeks much more viable across the board. Businesses that typically operate during the week can have shorter weeks, and those that operate on the weekends can offer multiple shifts.”
One in Four Businesses Have Switched to a 4-Day Workweek, More to Follow in 2023
Well over half of the business owners surveyed are in support of the four-day workweek. In fact, more than a quarter (27%) say that they have already implemented this model in their business, with 22% of business owners saying they are strongly considering changing to a four-day workweek and 13% saying they are at least somewhat considering the move.
“The best thing about the four-day workweek is that it helps everyone work to live, not live to work,” commented Corey Ashton Walters, CEO of Here. “I’m not tied to a strict nine-hour workday, five days a week if we can get the job done. Hustle-culture can be exhausting, and leads to burnout over time. Not only does this way of working improve productivity, but also allows me to focus on my own happiness and organize my day-to-day life in a way that makes sense for our team.”
As might be expected, this number increases when looking just at businesses whose employees are either fully or mostly remote. In this case, 34% of business owners say they’ve already begun the four-day workweek. When looking at businesses that have less than half to few remote workers, these numbers drop considerably. Only 19% of this group say they’ve implemented a 4-day workweek and only a combined 25% are at least somewhat considering the move.
Dennis Consorte said, “Practically any business can make the shift towards a shorter work-week. Focus on the value that people create, rather than the hours that they work. If you’ve got engaged workers who deliver value, then it doesn’t matter how many hours they work, when they work, or where they work.”
4-Day Workweek May Happen in 2023
Of the total 35% of business owners who are considering implementing a four-day workweek, the vast majority (86%) say the change may happen as soon as this year. 36% say it is very likely they will make the switch in 2023 while 50% say this is somewhat likely.
“I am considering switching to a 4-day work week due to shifts in advancements and priorities. With the increasing rate of technological developments, human labor has been found to be needed less than before,” commented Chris Walker, CEO and owner of Superstar SEO. “To adapt to these changes, we should also reduce the amount of time we require from employees to work in a week. I believe that lesser work weeks would not reduce profitability because employees will have a balanced lifestyle.”
84% Believe the 4-Day Workweek Will Give Them a Competitive Edge
Of the 35% of business owners who are considering the switch, 84% say they believe implementing a four-day workweek will help somewhat (48%) or a lot (36%) to give them an advantage over their competitors. And it looks like they are probably right, as 56% of the group who has already implemented the switch says that it has helped them a lot to gain a competitive edge.
The reasons why have to do with keeping existing employees happy and productive. 61% say increasing employee satisfaction is a motivator for considering or implementing a four-day workweek, and 53% also say they aim to reduce employee burnout and turnover.
High Hopes for Employee Retention
Of the 62% who have implemented or are considering implementing the four-day workweek, 51% say they have had a difficult time retaining employees this past year. However, an overwhelming 90% of this group also say that the four-day workweek has or will help them retain employees.
“My employees have actually been doing pretty well working for four days and prefer this arrangement better,” said Echo Wang, founder of Yoga Kawa. “They’ve reported that they are less stressed, more focused, and have a better work-life balance, with more time to manage non-work responsibilities.”
“Aside from that,” she continued, “my company saves money on costs such as energy and internet usage. The disadvantage is that there is a lot of pressure to accomplish everything in four days, which can be exhausting at times. However, the extra day more than makes up for it.”
Even Higher Hopes for New Applicants
Additionally, 59% of this group say that they’ve had a somewhat or very difficult time finding new employees within the past year. They have even higher hopes for how the four-day workweek will improve these prospects, as 93% say it has or will help them attract new applicants.
Dennis Consorte said, “The COVID lockdowns taught people that health and wellness are important. We saw them leaving their jobs by the millions during The Great Resignation. The companies that will do well in the future have learned this valuable lesson. They will offer their workers flexibility and a culture where they feel empowered to take ownership of their responsibilities.”
47% Concerned About Reduced Profitability
Although business owners are very positive about how the four-day workweek has or will affect employee retention and new applicants, close to half are somewhat (30%) or very (17%) concerned about how the shift will affect their business’s profitability. In order to ensure employees are able to maintain a high level of output, business owners intend to or have implemented measures like 30-minute or less meeting timers and designated coffee breaks.
“If leaders fail to implement the right work boundaries, such a policy can become detrimental,” said Kathleen Ahmmed, co-founder of USCarJunker. “Especially if employees often need extra time to deliver the results of their work on time. In such cases, it’s easy to start finding staff members working overtime, even on their days off, just to compensate, which only ends up leading straight back to the problem of job fatigue and burnout.”
“It is for this reason that instead of adopting a 4-day work week policy, we are opting to leave the five-day workweek, but instead, shorten the hours worked,” she continued. “This is an approach that allows us to help our staff maintain a healthy work-life balance, without the risk of problems with scheduling, overwork, and burnout.”
Although business owners have very reasonable concerns about how a four-day workweek will affect their bottom line, according to those surveyed, the benefits concerning new employee acquisition, a competitive advantage, and employee satisfaction seem well worth it. Especially when it comes to fully or mostly remote companies, business owners are even more inclined to make the leap. The majority who are interested but haven’t yet implied that big changes may be coming to the workplace this year.
This survey was commissioned by Digital.com and conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish between March 3 and March 7, 2022. In total, 1,300 participants in the United States were surveyed. All participants had to pass through demographic filters to ensure they were above the age of 18 and identified as an owner or partner of their business. Respondents varied on the number of employees they have who work remotely: 34% say their entire workforce is remote, 14% say the majority are remote, 11% say about half are remote, 7% say less than half are remote, and 35% say very few or none of their employees work remotely.