Four-Day Work Week: Benefits and Challenges for Tech Companies

Introducing a four-day work week means not only a better work-life balance but less stress and higher productivity. What are the limitations of this approach, and what do the statistics say? Explore in this blog post.

2 years ago   •   7 min read

By Anastasiya Dumyak
Table of contents

Let’s explore whether a four-day work week is as beneficial as we might think and what good it can bring to employees and companies. All backed up by statistics and real cases.

While it is a dream for many, working four days per week is already supported by governments, organizations, and companies.

Different ways to organize a four-day work week

Usually, each company defines what a four-day week should look like. There are no standards or sets of rules. After all, each organization needs to adapt its schedule according to the needs of its clients, communication model, agreements with suppliers and providers, and so on.

The first thing for employers to decide is whether the number of working hours will remain the same or the fifth day will be simply removed. If the company chooses to keep the number of hours per week the same, four days have to be prolonged, for example, by adding one or two extra hours to each day.

Mostly, governments and companies are establishing a four-day week by simply cutting those 8 hours off. Otherwise, if people have to work longer hours every day, it all loses its purpose a bit, doesn’t it?

As for the compensation, employers might preserve the same amount or deduct payment for the hours reduced from the schedule. No pay cut is a more common practice. After all, the productivity remains the same or even goes up (oops, that’s a little spoiler for you).

Americans say they would prefer a four-day workweek. Image source.

Are people getting less work done within a four-day week?

The main question for any employer considering introducing a new work style is, “How is it going to impact our results?”. Working fewer days means getting less work done, right? Well, actually, statistics prove the opposite.

The majority of cases demonstrate that working four days per week brings the same or better results.

  • Microsoft Japan reports a whopping 40% rise in productivity
  • The Financial Diet CEO shares no change in the amount of work done
  • Between 2015-2019, Iceland experimented with a four-day week. Productivity remained the same or improved.
A New Zealand company shifted to a 4-day week and saw productivity boost, less stress, and better work-life balance. Image source

These are just several examples demonstrating that a four-day week will in no way lower the work outcomes. Let’s be realistic — with a 40-hour week, deadlines get dragged out, and some tasks could be done quicker. One more thing to remember is that employees’ mental well-being and the quality of work should be the priorities. Unchanged or enhanced productivity comes as an extra advantage.

The majority of cases demonstrate that working four days per week brings the same or better results.

Top benefits of a four-day week

The very thought of having an extra day off can boost workers’ mood and give them the motivation to finish their tasks faster. Of course, there are more reasons why such an innovation can be beneficial for both employees and the company. Among them are:

  • Better work-life balance. The most evident advantage is that an extra day of free time contributes to a work-life balance. Let’s be honest, often, two days of the weekend is not enough to fully recharge and get energy for the new week of work tasks. On Saturday, we are still thinking about Friday events; on Sunday, we are getting ready to deal with tasks on Monday.

We simply need more time to spend outside of our jobs. We have lots of things to do, from family gatherings to side projects and education. Just consider this: 22% of millennials plan to leave their jobs because of the poor work-life balance.

  • Less stress. Stress is the main enemy of our mental health and, as a result, our work. Studies confirm that high levels of stress are directly correlated with lower productivity. Having enough time to rest or focus on non-work activities is the key to avoiding stress. Henley Business School’s research proves that employees working four days per week were 70% less stressed.
Brands that have adopted the 4-day work week say their team is 78% happier, 62% healthier, and 70% less stressed. Image source
  • Better productivity and creativity. Physical and emotional fatigue makes us slower, less attentive, and takes away our creativity. Not to mention the burnout that comes from the stress. It is especially crucial for IT companies; programmers, designers, project managers need a lot of creative energy to come up with new solutions and be active team members.
  • Help attract and retain talent. As the Ukrainian software development company, we can tell you: candidates are currently running the market. Many employers offer similar compensation levels and social packages, so a four-day week can definitely be an ace in the hole.
2/3rds employers say 4-day week helps attract talent. Image source
  • Resource optimization. Minus one working day also means spending less money and optimizing your processes. For example, if the company has an office, they cut operation costs, like electricity.

Four-day week for tech companies: challenges and peculiarities

Companies that provide IT services have some specifics regarding scheduling their work. The main difficulties a CEO might face when deciding to transform the work model are:

  • Handling the ongoing communication with clients and resolving their requests with no delays.
  • Keeping up with the pace of work considering a shorter amount of time dedicated to programming, designing, and other tasks.
  • Choosing the days off that suit all the clients, management, and employees.

The shift to a four-day work week can be smooth if you consider several important points and follow these tips:

  • Inform your current clients about such a decision ahead. They need to know that, let’s say, on Fridays, developers might not answer their questions right away.
  • Carefully choose the extra day off. It can be the same day for all the team members or different ones depending on the company’s needs. You might decide to get the company off the business for one day or keep the work going with smaller teams.
  • Try not to leave your clients all by themselves waiting for an answer since Thursday evening or disappear on Wednesday with no notice. For example, it is a good idea to divide the work of your sales managers so that from Monday to Friday someone can be in touch with the clients. Otherwise, it’s best to keep an automated message to remind them that it is a day off for all the employees. At first, it might be hard for your clients to remember the updated schedule.
  • Project managers must review the current plans and adapt the sprints and deadlines according to a new schedule. The teams' productivity probably won’t change, but remember about risk assessment.
  • It’s best to start with a new system in a trial mode: offer your team to work four days per week for a couple of months to see how it’s going for the company from the management and financial perspectives.
  • Don’t forget to track productivity to understand the success of the experiment. Use your usual project management tools, like Jira, Asana, or Toggle.

It doesn’t look like rocket science, does it? By the way, as for now, already 70% of Ukrainian IT employers are willing to switch to the four-day week as an experiment.

Some four-day work week cases to inspire you

Before we wrap up, let’s take a look at some success stories from tech companies. Bolt, an e-commerce startup from San Francisco, shares that introducing a permanent four-day week policy increased job applications by 30%. Remember what we said about employer branding?

During the 3-months pilot, team members could cancel the meetings they found unnecessary and overall adapt the work process by getting rid of any tasks they thought were redundant. After a successful trial, Bolt established a four-day work week permanently.

The company reports that the only challenge was to reschedule meetings with clients or postpone them to the following week.

Let’s take an example from our colleagues here in Ukraine: a software development company called mcpk. They started with 13 employees working four days per week to make a smooth transition. It was also decided that members of the same team cannot have a day off simultaneously. The company highlights that they would go back to the regular schedule if requested by the teams, but, predictably, so far, they have received no complaints.

More and more companies and countries are experiencing the benefits of a four-day work week and are unwilling to go back to the typical schedule.

The takeaway

Will working four days per week be a new standard for IT employers in a few years? It is likely to happen. More and more companies and countries are experiencing the benefits of a four-day week and are unwilling to go back to the typical schedule. With adequate preparation and a rational approach, such a model brings numerous advantages to the table, from increased productivity to a healthier work environment.

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