The Covid pandemic over the last two years has led many of us to reconsider our relationship to work, as well as our workload and the constant battle between our work / life balance.
While we’ve heard the term, ‘the new norm’ post-pandemic, some workers are keen to get back into the office as the charm of working from home has rubbed off (especially for those mothers who were juggling teaching their children from home as well as trying to hold down a full-time job while thers have found working from home to be liberating and are keen to preserve their newfound autonomy.
Around the world, the four day work week has started to garner more popularity with Belgium, Spain, Iceland, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, and Japan all trialing the four day work week scheme.
Many women prefer more flexibility in their working hours, and scheduling is a core consideration when deciding to accept or reject a job offer.
With the pandemic pushing companies to be more creative and open regarding working schemes, is a 4-day work week the solution to better productivity and employee happiness?
How did we get to a five-day work week?
In 1856, Melbourne stonemasons became the first workers in the world to achieve an eight-hour working day. It’s a landmark we commemorate with a public holiday in most states and territories (called Eight Hours Day in Tasmania and Labour Day elsewhere).
It took almost a century before the eight-hour day became the norm, and for the six-day week, those stonemasons still worked to be reduced. But finally, in 1948, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court approved a 40-hour, five-day working week for all Australians.
A five-day week brought us that great boon, the weekend. Thanks to steady increases in productivity, all this was achieved even while living standards improved steadily.
Some Australian workers already work a nine-day fortnight. (There are no solid numbers on how many, but Australian Bureau of Statistics data suggests it is fewer than 10% of the workforce.) For these workers shifting to a four-day week would reduce their total hours worked by a little more than 10%.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that reducing working hours if implemented correctly, can be partly offset by an increase in output per hour. Large-scale trials in Iceland reducing weekly hours from 40 to 36, for example, found no drop in productivity.
How Does a 4-Day Work Week Work?
The four-day work week isn’t a compressed work schedule, but rather reduced hours.
The approach can vary depending on the business needs and the company’s implementation. Many still require their employees to complete the standard 40-hour workweek, so they work 10 hours per day.
Other companies with more flexible operations have kept to the standard 8-hour office schedule for four days a week.
Female Perspective: Advantages of Working for Four Days
#1. Promotes Resiliency
Women don’t stop working once they clock out of the attendance system. Work continues as they go home and tend to their homes and families, and a lot of time and effort is required to meet the needs and expectations of being a wife, mother, daughter, or grandmother.
A 4-day workweek can be a fantastic change, especially for those who are working from home. For women raising children, an additional day off work can be beneficial for time management.
With fewer hours at work, you can spend more time with your children, partner or friends so when you do work, you can dedicate your full attention to your assigned tasks without worrying about the lack of quality time with family.
It is a working woman’s tremendous achievement to be able to fulfil the role in her family and her chosen profession without compromising on either – but this is never achieved with ease.
#2. Encourages Work-Life Balance
Caretaking has also changed, with female workers caring for children and elderly parents at various points in their careers. The four-day week would make it easier to balance life and work responsibilities.
This would decrease the pressure on women to drop out of full-time employment and make it easier for others to re-join full-time employment if they wish. It would also decrease underemployment, lessen the costs of paid childcare, and help level the playing field for unpaid care work by keeping men at home longer.
An extra day out of work that can be dedicated to downtime is the restoration that every tired employee or overwhelmed mother needs.
#3. Creates a Healthier Working Environment
Exhausted employees are impatient, irritable, and easily distracted. This significantly affects the quality of their work and the relationships among office workers.
A busy and demanding workplace doesn’t need the drama, and surprisingly, shortened work weeks have fostered a more compassionate and open culture at workplaces that have implemented it.
Individual dilemmas are easily addressed so employees can come to work without worrying about conflict. This, in turn, increases focus, productivity, and employee satisfaction.
A happy and stress-free employee creates a wonderful working environment for everyone around them.
Female Perspective: Challenges of Working for Four Days
#1. Extended Working Hours
For those who still need to work 40 hours per week, two additional working hours would mean having no time for other things, including family and personal responsibilities.
Working for ten hours for four straight days is mentally exhausting and physically demanding, even if you’re just sitting in the office. This fatigue can lead to subpar work quality. And female employees with kids have to compromise with their partners about their individual schedules or need to spend more money on childcare.
#2. Possibility of Lower Pay
Not all companies retain their employees’ salaries once they transition to a 4-day workweek. Some of the benefits are also altered, including requests for leaves and holiday entitlements.
While it’s been proven that working four days a week boosts productivity and is beneficial to individuals, the environment, and the economy – the overarching theme seems to be that you would still be required to work your minimum 40 hours, but just in a 4 day week. The burnout is real.
We’d love to hear your thoughts, what do you think about the 4 day work week? Head to our Instagram page @stellainsurance to tell us your thoughts.