What the heck is a four-day Working Week?

Abbey Perkins

As a millennial in 2022 contemplating what I want for the future of my career, what work/life balance looks like for me and what I value in my life in general my thoughts often drift to the Four-Day Work Week. This model, in particular, seems to be the topic of many of my conversations these days with colleagues and friends alike, as we all venture out the other side of the pandemic on the quest for balance, flexibility and ultimately career sustainability. We seem to all agree on one thing – whether the four-day week is the right ‘next move’ or not, something has to change. We are seeing too many of our friends, family and colleagues struggle with balance, lose their career passion and even completely burn out.

Employees are seeking flexibility from their employer now more than ever – with technological advancements now giving people the ability to work outside of the office and the demise of traditional ‘office hours’ plus the importance of mental health front of mind, priorities around work and life have seen a significant shift. The shift being more significant in recent years on the back of ongoing isolation and restriction periods due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People are prioritising their time and mental health and no longer staying in workplaces that don’t allow flexibility. This flexibility can look very different to each person – it could look like leaving early one day and staying late the other for one person, a monthly RDO or a hybrid model for another, or even a full working from home arrangement. Whatever it may look like, its what employees are now searching and staying for in 2022.

Our traditional and current working model of the 40-hour working week was born of the industrial revolution and can be traced back to 1817. The movement of the 8-hour day, five-day working week was brought to the masses by Henry Ford of Ford Motor Company in 1926 – almost 100 years ago. Since then, the world has seen so much change, there has been depressions, wars, TV turned from black and white to colour, man walked on the moon, and we entered the age of the internet.

Employers and employees alike are now calling into question whether it still makes sense that we subscribe to the 9-5 grind, designed for the factory workers of the early 1900’s. So, what’s the alternative?  One option – a four-day working week. Generally, the idea is that you work your four chosen days of the week while maintaining the same workload and pay.

At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022, data from the UAE’s trial of this 4-day work week model show 70% of employees reporting that they are working more efficiently, prioritising and managing their time better during the week, a 55% reduction in absenteeism and 71% of employees reported that they’re spending more time with their families as a direct result. Closer to home – New Zealand and Australia officially started trialling this model in August 2022 joining the likes of Iceland, Switzerland, the UAE, France, and pioneering the way of the 4-day work week.

A four-day work week affords employees the ability to use their annual leave on events that matter like family holidays and special occasions instead of trivial things like personal appointments and the general administration of life. Other benefits include more general work life balance, the ability to commit time to passions, hobbies or even volunteering which can help to improve mental health, all at a full time renumeration.

Employers’ can reap the benefits of increased productivity, less sick leave being taken, a noted reduction in absenteeism, more engaged and focused employees, and a valuable addition to the company’s Employee Value Proposition which can prove invaluable in attracting and retaining your star employees.

But, realistically, is this achievable and what would it look like put into practice? I think the answer to this question is largely dependent on:

  1. The role you work in
  2. The team around you
  3. The nature of your work

Point A – The role you work in.
A role such as a traditional Receptionist would only work in this model if on the day the employee chooses to take off the office is additionally resourced. This means making sure your fellow team has capacity to take on any extra day-to-day tasks that cannot wait for your return, in this example – taking and directing calls, greeting clients or maybe managing a central inbox.

This model would be more easily achieved in a role such as Marketing Coordinator. Content can be planned before and after traditional office hour times can be utilised to complete the administrative aspects of the job leaving those office hours for client and internal meetings.

Point B – The team around you.
If the team around, you is well resourced, well organised and supported, the transition to a 4 day week/5 day workload would be easier than that of a team that is already understaffed, under resourced and not cohesive. If your ‘day off’ is leaving the rest of the office running on skeleton staff this may not be the best option for you and your team and flexibility may be achieved better through a hybrid work arrangement.

Point C – The nature of your work.
The nature of the beast, or YOUR beast, could be a boundary when it comes to the implementation of this model into your workplace. Some workplaces will find that they are unable to work this way due to their client needs, seasonal workloads or competing deadlines. Other workplaces will find it an easy implementation process with overall benefits to the team with more administrative hours being dedicated to the earlier mornings and later afternoons/evening leaving the majority of the day with capacity for important meetings both internal and with clients.

Overall, we have found the deep dive into the subject varying in opinions but very interesting. We would love to hear your thoughts on what the future workforce’s week looks like, or perhaps where your thoughts drift to when asked what you want for your future career or what work/life balance looks like for you!

About The Author
Abbey Perkins

Abbey is mostly known for being ‘the organised one,’ but she also has strong roots in customer service and administration in a myriad of industries ranging from civil construction to a perfume boutique. Abbey is always keen to connect with people and experience new things, she loves being at the centre of the hustle and bustle and getting down to work. Abbey is all about building meaningful connections within her work, be it from her past in sales or administration roles, she never forgets a face and a name. You can count on Abbey to think about every little detail and make those big ideas come to life. Support and enthusiasm are her middle names.

Outside of work, Abbey has a keen interest in all things history and interior design. Abbey can often be found sweating it out at a barre class or enjoying a catch up with friends in the local Ballarat restaurant and bar scene. Abbey is excited to be a part of the Inspire HQ team and looks forward to making meaningful connections with the community.

For more useful information, follow Abbey on LinkedIn.

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