4 Day Workweek Versus 6-Hour Workday — Which Is Best?
The four-day workweek is making headlines again.
It first made the rounds back in 2008 when Utah state government employees began working ten-hour days from Monday to Thursday. A decade later, in the summer of 2019, Microsoft Japan trialed a four-day workweek, and it noted a 40 percent increase in sales per employee before curiously returning to the five-day workweek.
Now, Buffer, a tech company with 89 employees, is igniting the conversation again, particularly as the pandemic, remote work, and the blurring of lines between home and work has resulted in people working, on average, longer hours than ever before.
In response to these employee stressors, Buffer gave its employees an extra day off each week without reducing pay. The experiment has been so successful that it is still in play a year later.
Iceland, too, ran a comprehensive five-year study involving 2,500 workers. Their working week was reduced from 40 hours down to 35 to 36 hours, noting no loss in productivity and improved wellbeing. NPR reports that 86 percent of Iceland’s workforce has now moved to shorter hours or has the right to negotiate doing so.
This paradox in performance isn’t a revelation.
When researching for my book on smarter work, Time Rich, I discovered that in 1914, the Ford Motor Company radically doubled wages and cut shift hours from nine to eight, increasing Ford’s productivity and profit margin. This pre-empted the eventual ratification of the 8-hour workday in 1938 by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
But the question beckons. Is the 4-day workweek better for productivity and emotional wellbeing, or does it simply say something about the nature of how we work being fundamentally broken?
The Real Reason the 4-Day Workweek is Delivering Results
Back in 2018, I argued The Case for the 6-Hour Workday in Harvard Business Review. I ran a 6-hour workday experiment at my productivity and innovation consultancy, Collective Campus, and we too noted productivity gains and improved emotional wellbeing as a result.