Companies Embrace 4-Day Workweek to Attract, Boost Productivity Among Talents

How do you make people come to work? What if they were offered a four-day workweek? This concept is gaining traction, with notable benefits in productivity and well-being, as global mobility professionals and companies have also observed.

Evidence suggests that while job posts advertising a four-day workweek are still relatively rare (0.3% of total posts), their numbers have tripled in recent years. This trend is most pronounced in sectors requiring in-person work, such as healthcare, manufacturing, and production. 

The United Auto Workers initially pushed for a four-day workweek in negotiations but didn’t secure this provision in the final agreements. Rivelin Robotics, on the other hand, experimented with closing on Fridays and extending daily working hours. However, challenges arose when urgent work couldn’t wait, and executives had to remain available on Fridays.

NPR reported, however, that the 4-day workweek concept worked for Advanced RV, a company that builds custom, luxury motorhomes out of Mercedes-Benz cargo vans in Willoughby, Ohio.

As reported by the Harvard Business Review, about 61 companies in the UK that participated in a pilot program saw 92% continuing to test the concept and 29% making it a permanent change. These companies reported a 1.4% increase in average organizational revenue, a 57% reduction in the likelihood of employees quitting, and a 65% reduction in paid sick days.

In a WSJ piece, organizations that have reportedly shortened workweeks say it has resulted in happier, healthier staff, less turnover and a wave of interest from job applicants—usually with little to no loss in productivity. 

Looks like the results of these experiments have been positive, suggesting that reducing work hours while maintaining output can be successful. The important thing is to have the work redesign adhere to some measures. 

  • Clearly defining essential work
  • Evaluating and streamlining meetings
  • Allowing employees to focus on high-impact tasks by eliminating non-priority work
  • Embracing asynchronous communication to maintain productivity while reducing interruptions

Transitioning to a four-day workweek requires that organizations set clear expectations during a trial period, invest in training and preparation for employees, and ensure buy-in from leadership and staff.

Implementing a reduced-hour workweek can be a competitive advantage in today’s tight labor market. Job seekers value the flexibility and improved work-life balance, and organizations can retain and attract top talent while maintaining or even enhancing productivity. However, this transition requires careful planning and adjustments to optimize results.

Several companies, including ThredUp, Qwick, and Advanced RV, have adopted a four-day workweek with varying degrees of success. They have found that reducing working hours requires efforts to increase efficiency and eliminate unnecessary tasks while maintaining output. Each company tailored its approach to suit its specific needs and business operations.

4-day workweek amplified by AI

The potential transition to a four-day workweek could soon be further amplified by the influence of artificial intelligence (AI). Recent studies conducted by Autonomy, a think tank dedicated to addressing climate change, the future of work, and economic planning, have highlighted the role of AI in making this shift feasible.

These studies delve into the impact of AI on the workforces of the UK and the US, suggesting that AI technologies could facilitate a reduction in working hours without compromising wages. 

In the US, about 35 million workers could potentially transition to a four-day workweek within the next decade, accounting for 28% of the payroll. 

Furthermore, the studies reveal that 71% of American workers could experience a minimum 10% reduction in working hours by incorporating large language models (LLMs) into their daily tasks. In the UK, this figure rises to 88%.

The productivity gains attributed to AI stem from its ability to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks, freeing up employees to focus on more value-added endeavors and, importantly, enhancing their work-life balance.

Autonomy’s research suggests that the integration of LLMs into the workplace to shorter workweeks while maintaining compensation offers the potential to address issues such as mass unemployment, mental health challenges associated with overwork, and physical health problems. It also creates opportunities for more leisure time, democratic engagement, and social cohesion.

However, it is essential to approach these conclusions with caution. Experts remain divided on AI’s overall impact on the job market. Some research, including studies conducted by Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan School of Management, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Warwick, and the BCG Henderson Institute, suggests that the new generation of AI tools primarily excel in tasks categorized as “creative” (e.g., writing emails, summarizing documents, naming products/services).

These tools may not be as effective in solving complex problems and could potentially limit creativity while standardizing outputs. The repeated generation of responses with similar meanings could lead to collective repetitiveness.

Striking a balance between human collaboration and technology integration is therefore crucial to ensuring that AI enhances productivity without stifling innovation and creativity. The ultimate goal is a symbiotic relationship between humans and technology rather than one of dependence.