Could a four day week help your business thrive?

The “overwork epidemic” is a serious problem world-wide. In Japan, there’s even a word for it; to die by karōshi is to suffer a heart attack or stroke brought on by unrelenting overtime and occupational stress.

In addition to the negative impact on health and well-being, working too much is bad for productivity. According to a recent study, employees who put in more than 50 hours a week – as nearly half of US workers do – show a sharp decline in output right around the 50 hour mark.

Read on to discover why some business owners are embracing a four hour work week – and decide whether a less-is-more approach is right for you.

The benefits of balance

A New Zealand firm found that productivity significantly improved when a four day work week was implemented; remarkably, 78% of employees reported the change helped them better manage their work-life balance.

In addition to reduced stress, improved mental health, and greater work satisfaction, one less day in the office each week can also help nurture:

  • greater focus, energy, and commitment to the job
  • a sense of empowerment at work
  • better overall performance and
  • increased loyalty and retention.

Environmental considerations

For business owners concerned about their environmental impact, moving to a shorter work week can be a win-win.

You’ll reduce your company’s carbon footprint by decreasing heat, air conditioning, electricity, and water use three days a week – and enjoy the associated cost savings.

Both you and your employees will also benefit from reduced fuel costs (not to mention the time you’ll save commuting).

Consider the cons

Before you decide to make the switch to a four day work week, keep in the mind there may be a few downsides for your business.

Although some customers will appreciate a business that keeps longer hours and shorter days, some may feel inconvenienced and take their business elsewhere. You can make the adjustment easier for your customers by giving them plenty of advance notice.

When it comes to your employees, some may find it challenging to find childcare arrangements for a shorter work week, defeating your best intentions to create greater work-life balance and a flexible work culture.

In the age of mobile devices and 24/7 connectivity, ensuring you and your employees make the most of your extra day off by unplugging can also be tricky. It’s recommended you set a policy around online work communications when the office is closed – otherwise, an additional day off work can easily become a remote work day for you and your staff.

Final thoughts

If you decide a four day work week would be beneficial for your business, take care to involve your employees in the planning process.

Workers involved in the New Zealand experiment came up with a number of valuable initiatives that increased efficiency, such as automating tedious manual processes and taking steps to decrease non-work-related time spent online.

When Germany officially moved to a four day work week during the 2008 recession, the impact was overwhelmingly positive – essentially saving the national economy from sliding into a depression.

If that’s not reason enough to consider implementing a four day work week, check out this infographic for more persuasive data, as well as tips for working smarter if you decide to make the switch.