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Experiment: Is the 4-day work week is good for business

Written on Jan 11, 2023

Seattle startup Uplevel adopted a four-day week last January and predicted employees would get the same amount done in less time.  

The experiment exceeded expectations: during a three-month trial period, the company saw higher product delivery volume and onboarded more customers than ever, according to a report. Not one employee expressed a desire to go back to a five-day week. The company still has a four-day work week policy in place. 

The results at Uplevel align with the findings of a global study that surveyed more than 900 employees at 33 companies who had participated in a pilot program coordinated by the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global. 

Overall, the study found that a shorter week did wonders for people’s mental and physical health, with no significant downsides for employers. In fact, participating companies’ revenues rose 38% on average when compared with the same period the previous year. The results add to a growing number of case studies demonstrating the benefits of a shorter week. 

The report outlined additional positive impacts of a 4-day work week and also related challenges. 

More efficiency. Fitness app startup Volt said that when it shifted to a four-day week in July 2020, leaders had to ruthlessly prune their meetings. After all recurring meetings were removed and studied, only a third of these never made it back onto the Volt calendar, and management used more discernment in deciding who should participate in remaining meetings. Meanwhile, the company gathered feedback from employee surveys about how they viewed their own productivity. Management reported that productivity at all levels was about the same, if not slightly improved, and there was a significant boost in employee wellbeing, happiness and satisfaction. 

Attracting talent. When it comes to recruitment and retention, a four-day week can help smaller companies stay competitive. One company reported an “exponential” rise in inbound job applicants after implementing a shorter week. 

The global survey from 4 Day Week Global reported 70% of respondents who said their next job would need to offer between 10-to-50% more pay for them to go back to a five-day schedule, with more than 10% saying that no amount of money could make them go back. Another report released in February by Qualtrics, which surveyed more than 1,000 people, found that the vast majority of U.S. employees (94%) would support their employer in adopting a four-day work week.  

Customer service challenges. When it comes to dropping a workday, one of the most commonly cited concerns is maintaining quality customer service. In the Qualtrics survey, more than half of employees (55%) believed that closing operations for a day would likely frustrate customers. 

Volt’s customer service team does respond to inquiries throughout the weekend. The policy is to try to respond to customers within 24-to-48 hours, and employees make the call as to when exactly they get back to them.  

Other companies said they are designating employees to be “on call” every Friday or if a situation deemed “business critical” arises, employees are expected to be available on Friday regardless of whether they’re “on call.”  

One caveat of the 4 Day Week study is that it skewed toward smaller businesses. Researchers at 4 Day Week Global are in talks with larger companies to roll out more pilots in 2023. Microsoft did experiment with a 4-day work week in Japan — and saw increased productivity.