Everything You Need to Know About the 4-Day Work Week Concept

Milena Stanimirovic

Last updated on: January 23, 2024

Extra 8 hours per week of free time.

Sounds like a distant dream?

Not if you’re working a 4-day work week. 

But what does this type of work week really look like, especially with hectic schedules? Is it even doable?

Read on because this blog post will fill you in on:

  • The definition of the 4-day work week concept,
  • The benefits and drawbacks of this type of work week, 
  • Tips for introducing a 4-day work week schedule, and
  • FAQs on 4-day work week.
4 day workweek - cover

What is a 4-day work week?

A 4-day work week is a work schedule in which employees typically work fewer hours per week than the traditional 40 without a cut in pay or loss of benefits.

Employees working a 4-day work week may work Monday to Thursday or Tuesday to Friday — all depending on their company’s policy.  

4-day work week schedule and hours

Even though the premise of a 4-day work week entails reduced hours, the very schedule comes in different shapes and sizes.

For example, employees could be working a regular 8-hour shift for 4 days a week, which adds up to 32 hours per week:

8 hours x 4 days = 32 hours/week

Some employees, on the other hand, may work 40 hours per week but still within 4 days:

10 hours x 4 days = 40 hours/week

History of the 4-day work week

Before the concept of working 4 days per week even became a topic of discussion, a typical work week had gone through many changes. 

Here’s how the evolution of a work week looked like throughout centuries:

  • The Babylonians introduced the norm of working 7 days per week.
  • In 1914, Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company introduced 8-hour shifts for his employees.
  • In 1916, the US Congress passed the Adamson Act — introducing an 8-hour workday across the country
  • In 1926, Henry Ford adopted a 5-day, 40-hour work week
  • In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act mandated 8-hour work days and 40-hour work weeks.
  • In an interview for the New York Times in 1956, Richard M. Nixon predicted a 4-day work week would become the norm in the near future.
  • In the 1960s and 1970s, hundreds of companies adopted a 4-day work week by condensing 40 hours of work into 4 days. 
  • In 2019, a non-profit organization, 4 Day Week Global, started a pilot program guiding businesses from all over the world through a 6-month trial period of operating within a 4-hour work week.  

4-day work week studies

The majority of studies focused on the 4-day work week found that this type of work schedule contributes to employees’ decreased stress levels, less burnout, and a better work-life balance.

For example, a Harvard Business Review study focused on evaluating the impact of a reduced-hour work week on companies and employees highlights strikingly positive results. In fact, the research found a significant decrease in employee turnover coupled with an increased overall work and life satisfaction. 

Moreover, researchers from Cambridge have noticed that on top of a significant reduction in stress, many employees reported that shorter work weeks allowed them to switch off from work more easily. This, in turn, contributed to increased productivity during their working hours. 

Businesses that have reduced their working hours also report reduced absenteeism rates. In fact, Unilever Australia & New Zealand decided to participate in an 18-month 4-day work week trial and noticed employee absenteeism dropping 34% as a result of the experiment.

💡 Clockify Pro Tip

Working hours can impact your outlook on the job you do more than you think. Still, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a say in your work-life quality. Take a look at what you can do:

The benefits of a 4-day work week

Now that we’ve seen how a 4-day work week actually works, let’s go over all the benefits that come with this type of schedule. 

Benefit #1: Better work-life balance and more free time

With an additional day off, most people would see their work-life balance thrive. In fact, Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand company that trialed a 4-day work week has witnessed their employees’ work-life balance increase by 34%. 

This shouldn’t come as a surprise — as soon as employees get an extra day per week to spend as they wish, they feel free to pursue their interests or spend more time with their family. 

In fact, working parents get more time to fulfill childcare and other family and personal duties if their work is only 32 hours long. Working 4 days instead of 5 allows employees to juggle childcare concerns with work tasks. 

A four-day work week may also encourage more stay-at-home women to find employment. Working moms would have an opportunity to spend one day during a work week with their children while still keeping up with their professional lives. 

Benefit #2: Increased productivity and employee engagement

Employees perform better during a four-day work week, according to the aforementioned University of Cambridge research. 

This study shows a significant increase in productivity following the reduced working hours — and this shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, when given an extended weekend to rest and relax, employees have more time to recharge — they come back to work ready to give their maximum performance. 

Benefit #3: Improved recruitment and retention of top talent

A 4-day work week makes a company more appealing to both current and future employees.

Offering potential and current employees a flexible work schedule may aid in attracting and keeping skilled professionals.

Furthermore, for a great number of employees a 4-day work week comes as a preferred work model, according to Paola Accettola, CEO & Principal Consultant of True North HR:

Paola Accettola, CEO & Principal Consultant of True North HR

“Many highly skilled workers have a preference for this new model, which means it can even be a selling point for your company during recruitment.”

Studies have further confirmed this claim, showing that introducing a 4-day work week significantly lowers the chances of employees quitting their jobs. In fact, the companies participating in the 4-day work week pilot program noticed the likelihood of leaving dropping by 57%

Benefit #4: Less commuting and more eco-friendliness

By removing one day from the work week, the total number of cars on the road would be reduced.

On top of one less day spent commuting — which many employees welcome with open hands — fewer vehicles on the road naturally imply reduced carbon emissions. In fact, research has shown that countries with reduced work hours boast an 8.6% drop in carbon footprint

According to Erik Pham, founder and CEO of Health Canal, a company that has recently implemented a 4-day work week schedule, one more day per week outside the office helps reduce energy consumption at the workplace, too:

Erik Pham, founder and CEO of Health Canal

“Reduced office usage has led to lower operational expenses, including decreased utility consumption and spending on amenities, coffee, and snacks. This financial efficiency allows for more strategic resource allocation.”

The drawbacks of a 4-day work week

As tempting as it may sound with the benefits it provides, a 4-day work week also has some drawbacks. Let’s go over each of them. 

Drawback #1: Not applicable to every industry

For sectors that need to be available 24/7, a four-day work week may sound too good to be true. Making such drastic changes to your company’s schedule could even make managing customer service issues quite challenging. 

Paola Accettola agrees, adding that certain positions also require this extended availability, making it impossible to work fewer hours:

Paola Accettola, CEO & Principal Consultant of True North HR

“A 4-day work week does not mold to every industry successfully. For example, you will likely never see an investment banker working only four days a week, given that they are required to be ‘on’ in some capacity at all times.”

Yet, even if a business does not depend on being available at all times, companies may still need to find a way to fine-tune their operations to make the reduced hours work. 

Erik Pham finds getting things done much more challenging now that his company has introduced a changed work model: 

Erik Pham, founder and CEO of Health Canal

“One thing we have noticed is that we had a bit of a challenge scheduling work and prioritizing tasks to get everything done within the 4 days.”

Drawback #2: Increased stress levels

Many may feel more pressure to complete tasks once their work week becomes shorter — especially when working in an industry which requires them to stay on their toes or even multitask

In fact, work environments accustomed to a rapid pace may even experience a drop in productivity due to employees’ increased levels of stress, as Paola Accettola points out: 

Paola Accettola, CEO & Principal Consultant of True North HR

“Fast-paced and agile industries may also struggle with workloads piling up too high during working hours, causing increased stress and even reducing productivity in the long term. Many of these models still require the deliverables from 40 working hours to be provided in 32 hours, which is a main pitfall.”

Drawback #3: Reduced workplace flexibility

Research has shown that employees value flexibility to such an extent that a lack of it could even lead them to refuse a job offer. 

Yet, with a 4-day work week schedule, companies frequently have to compress a 5-day workload into fewer days. 

In case a company has been operating under flexible hours before introducing a 4-day work week schedule, employees would quickly notice a drop in flexibility. 

If you’re used to taking longer lunch breaks you make up for later throughout the week, or were able to choose your own work hours before — you may see how it becomes more difficult to cover your workload if you continue to work the same way. When having to cram the same amount of tasks within a shorter period of time, the intensity of work and the rush to finish everything trumps flexibility. 

This, in turn, takes a toll on employees’ well-being and job satisfaction, according to Accettola:

Paola Accettola, CEO & Principal Consultant of True North HR

“Other models adopt longer working days in order to ‘earn’ the fifth day off, which has its own downsides around employee burnout as well.”

Yet, when being refused the driver’s seat concerning their working hours, 62% of employees would make sacrifices to achieve the desired flexibility — sometimes even in the form of a resignation letter. 

4 Tips to introduce a 4-day work week to your employees

Here are 4 tips that could be helpful if you decide to implement a 4-day work week in your company. 

Tip #1: Try to understand the goals you want to achieve

Taking the time to think about why you are changing the policy for a 4-day work week is a good start for a successful implementation. 

If you would like to give the 4-day work week a try, begin by asking yourself the following questions: 

  • How will this new work model impact the effectiveness of our organization?
  • Will a 4-day work week increase employee productivity and engagement?
  • Can employee retention rates increase if we adopt a 4-day work week policy? 

Erik Pham supports this standview, stressing the importance of taking a step back to consider and communicate the benefits your company would reap from a newly introduced work model:

Erik Pham, founder and CEO of Health Canal

“I would advise organizations to communicate clearly about why they are implementing the program, what benefits they expect to get, and how this may change the organizational culture in the near term.”

Making your work model’s goal visible and measurable will make the implementation process easier, while reducing the chances of second-guessing the decision to introduce a 4-day work week concept. 

💡 Clockify Pro Tip

To chart a course towards a successful 4-day work week implementation, you’ll need to create a structure for achieving your company’s goals. Here’s how to do that exactly: 

Tip #2: Reevaluate your priorities

The newly introduced work model should primarily be focused on permanently removing low-priority tasks from your team’s to-do list.

If you use time tracking software that shows you all the tasks your team is busy with, helping your team focus on setting their priorities straight doesn’t take up much of your time.

Clockify, for example, shows you the exact number of hours spent on each task, so you’ll be able to devise a thorough strategy and determine which projects you should: 

  • Focus on, 
  • Dismiss, 
  • Automate, or 
  • Outsource.
Clockify dashboard
Clockify’s Dashboard helps you see how you spend your time and reevaluate your priorities

However, keep in mind that it’s critical for you to assess your own tasks and free up some time, too. If you don’t, you’ll ultimately find yourself working on your days off and eventually dragging your team along with you.

💡 Clockify Pro Tip

Read about how the time management method Eisenhower matrix can boost your productivity: 

Tip #3: Minimize the time spent in meetings

According to Zippia’s research, an average employee spends around 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings.  

So, to maximize your team’s productive time when working reduced hours, you’ll need to minimize the number of meetings. 

Examine the meetings you’ve arranged with your teammates and third parties, and prepare a one-page meeting agenda that includes:

  • Background information, 
  • Topics to be discussed, and 
  • The critical decisions you hope to make.

While this may appear to be extra work, 20 minutes of individual preparation can typically save an hour of meeting time.

💡 Clockify Pro Tip

Discover more tips to make your meetings more effective and help your teammates stay engaged and productive when attending both in-person and virtual meetings: 

Tip #4: Monitor KPIs

Moving to a four-day work week stands to reason only if your company continues to meet its key performance indicators (KPIs).

As clear indicators of progress toward a goal, KPIs provide information on various aspects of an organization’s strategy. KPIs can be tailored to specific needs, industries, and departments. 

After a few weeks of your 4-day work week experiment, assess how well your team is meeting their KPIs and what you can do about it: 

  • Are they staying on track, or are they finding it difficult to meet their objectives now that there is one fewer workday? 
  • If they can’t seem to meet their objectives, what can you, as their lead, do to fix this issue? Speak with the team to determine what is holding them back.

FAQs on 4-day work week

If you’re still wondering whether a 4-day work week is a good choice for your organization, take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions on this type of work model we’ve compiled.

Which country has the 4-day work week?

Belgium is the first European country to have passed the law introducing a 4-day work week. In February 2022, the Belgian government introduced labor market reforms, allowing employees to condense their work weeks and have an additional day off. However, employees would still need to work the traditional 40-hour work week within a shorter time frame — 9.5 hours per day instead of 8.

Many other countries, such as Iceland, Scotland, Spain, and Japan, have implemented a 4-day work week pilot program at one point with a limited number of workplaces taking part in the trial. Yet, none of them have adopted this work model country-wide. 

Is the US moving to a 4-day work week?

The US may be slowly moving to a 4-day work week, but it’s still unclear whether this work model will be implemented across the country in the near future. 

Several US states have either proposed or introduced this particular work model in some shape. Representatives of Massachusetts, for example, petitioned to bring forward a 4-day work week pilot program across the state.

Congressman Mark Takano proposed a Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act to the US Congress, whereas Texas and Missouri have already introduced a 4-day work week in several school districts.

However, the US still doesn’t have an official country-wide stance on the introduction of a 4-day work week. 

What day off do 4-day week companies take off?

Usually, companies that have introduced a 4-day work week schedule take Fridays off. However, the exact day 4-day week companies take off usually depends on individual companies’ policies. 

Do any companies have a 4-day work week?

A great number of companies have successfully implemented a 4-day work week.

Lamborghini, for example, is the first European company to have jumped the 4-day work week bandwagon and introduced this work model to its production workers.  

Back in 2022, an American software company, Kickstarter, implemented a 32-hour work week along with a work-from-anywhere policy.

Many other companies, such as Bolt, Forbes Advisor, RocketAir, Imprint, etc., advertise a 4-day work week in their job postings. 

Why are companies against a 4-day work week?

Certain companies are against the 4-day work week concept because they found it challenging to prevent their employees from overworking after implementing this work model. While trying to cram all their work tasks into a shortened time frame, employees ended up less engaged, confused, and frustrated. 

💡 Clockify Pro Tip

To prevent your team working beyond their capacity, you’ll need to be able to spot the first signs of overworking. Read more about it here:

Make the most out of the 4-day work week with an all-around time tracking tool 

Condensing work weeks has many benefits, including improved productivity and more time to pursue individual interests. 

Yet, to make sure a 4-day work week actually works for your business, you’ll need to know exactly what your teams are busy with and organize their schedules accordingly. 

Clockify lets you glance at all your projects in a matter of seconds, assign tasks, and optimize your team’s schedule for maximum efficiency — even with reduced working hours. 

Sign up for Clockify for free today.

Milena Stanimirovic is a content writer and a time management and productivity author and researcher. She is constantly on the hunt for valuable strategies that help managing time effectively. Do you happen to struggle with productivity and procrastination? No need to fear when she's around.


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