The Four-Day Workweek is Finally Happening

Anvita Gurumurthy ‘23

The past two years have brought a host of changes for the world, the chief cause of these changes being the COVID-19 pandemic. With the resulting drastic shift in the way we conduct day-to-day activities comes lasting impacts on pretty much every aspect of our lives. Working was no exception. A widespread increase in stress levels coupled with an entirely new online platform has forced companies to consider an alternative to the traditional style of working.  

The idea of a four-day workweek is gaining traction quickly, with many companies implementing it, including Kickstarter, Shopify, Shake Shack, and the New Zealand offices of Unilever [1].

There are many positive benefits associated with the switch. Four day workweeks have been proven to lead to an increase in productivity and employee engagement and wellbeing, as well as a decrease in carbon footprint and burnout among employees [3].

Clearly, being in the office for a shorter amount of time while extending weekends can bring major changes. Imagine an office full of employees coming back from three days of rest with sufficient energy and preparation for the week ahead. Imagine the decreased use of harmful office supplies, like paper, and the subsequent increase in online communication, since face-to-face time has been cut down. Imagine the reduced time spent on unnecessary tasks, allowing for increase in productivity, especially due to less available time in a week. Just think how much all this could advance a company!

CEO Mike Melillo recently transitioned his company, The Wanderlust Group, to a shortened workweek. He decided to give every employee Mondays off and did so while keeping wages and daily hours the same. This allowed for a restructuring of the time spent at work, which cut down on unproductivity, especially in long meetings. Since then, Wanderlust has experienced a sharp increase in the quality of meetings, communication, and productivity. Melillo has observed a “136% year-over-year growth in gross merchandise volume processed in the second quarter and a 100% year-over-year increase in second-quarter reservations” [2]. 

Primary, an online clothing store, made the switch to a four-day workweek after observing alarming stress levels during the pandemic. At first temporary, the decision to give employees Fridays off was so successful that it was made permanent. Like Wanderlust, employees continued to receive the same pay and work the same amount of hours daily. The company saw an increase in employee satisfaction and productivity, with the chief experience officer even noting that “people feel recharged on Monday” [1].

The prospective change does not, however, come without its negative consequences. For one, many workplaces hold on to ingrained cultural mindsets that value those who work long hours and put the most time into their work. It is likely that some employees will take the day as a chance to work more than their colleagues in an effort to increase their value, essentially defeating the purpose. Additionally, less time at work leads to logistical challenges; an Iceland study found that events like employee training and office parties, along with communication among workers between shifts were much tougher to organize with this policy in place [1].

Despite certain logistical roadblocks presented by its initiation, the four-day workweek is currently growing rapidly in popularity.  Its monumental potential to revolutionize the very way we work will likely come to fruition in the coming years, as more and more companies hop on the bandwagon. In short, get ready to leave behind sleepy Mondays for a more efficient and evolved way of working!