There’s a lot of talk right now about a 4-day work week—both globally and here in the United States. In Iceland, 86% of the workforce is now running on a 4-day work week.1 And the concept is catching on—Spain, New Zealand and Japan are giving it a shot, and a California congressman just introduced legislation to make the 4-day work week happen here in the States.2 So, could America be next? Not so fast, folks. Let’s talk about the pros, the cons and what the research says.
What Is a 4-Day Work Week?
A 4-day work week means that people are working 32- to 36-hour weeks (maybe even less)—not full 40-hour weeks. That makes this concept different from shift work, where people work fewer days but still fit 40 hours into the work week. With a 4-day work week, you’re guaranteed a three-day weekend every week. And did I mention that the pay doesn’t decrease? That’s right—you still get the same salary or hourly pay as if you’re working a full five days.
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You might be saying, “You had me at a three-day weekend!” Or maybe you’re wondering how productive people can really be if they’re only working four days. No matter which camp you’re in, let’s dive into the data together.
What 4-Day Work Week Statistics Show Us
Here’s what the research says: A 4-day work week actually makes people more productive. At least, that’s what the studies are showing in Iceland, where workers say they feel less stressed and burned out and that their overall health and work-life balance have gotten an upgrade.3
The study lasted from 2015 to 2019 and cut back on workers’ hours without cutting down on their income. And guess what? Those employees said that by having shorter hours, they had the energy to do other things in their lives—like take care of to-do lists around the house, exercise, reconnect with family and friends, and even take up new hobbies.4 All of that actually improved their quality of life at work too. They had better attitudes because they were coming to work fully present instead of running on empty.
4-Day Work Week Benefits vs. Cons
Okay, so we went over some of the benefits already, but let’s dig a little deeper here. There are a lot of pros and cons that you might not expect when it comes to the 4-day work week.
4-Day Work Week Benefits
1. Avoiding Burnout
Americans working full-time jobs put in an average of 44 hours a week.5 And you know a whole lot of people are working way more than that, which is why we’ve got a problem with workaholism in our country.
The more rest you can get, the more likely you’ll be able to avoid being overworked. The benefits from this are huge—not only for your mental health (which is a big deal) but for the quality of your work too! The less workplace burnout you feel, the more likely you are to stay invested in your job and actually produce quality work.
2. More Intentionality About the Way You Work
If you know you only have four days in the week to get stuff done, then you might be more careful about how you schedule your days. You’ll probably try harder to stay focused and have fewer interruptions too. If you’ve been kicking back and phoning it in on Fridays, a 4-day work week might be the kick in the pants you need.
3. Better Work-Life Balance
It’s a simple math formula: The more time you spend at the office, the less time you spend with family. And you can’t get those moments back. Being able to have a better work-life balance can make you and your family a whole lot happier and healthier.
And even if you don’t have a family of your own, work-life balance is still important—you can spend more time with friends, volunteer for church activities, or pursue your hobbies.
4. More Time for Personal Development and Self-Growth
Time spent working on yourself outside of the office can make you better in the office. Personal growth can go a long way in developing your leadership skills, connecting with others, and even improving your self-confidence. And if you’re only working four days a week, well, then you’ll have more time on your hands to grow in these areas.
4-Day Work Week Cons
1. Less Time to Do Work That Matters
Sure, having a longer weekend might be great, but the truth is that a 4-day work week gives you less time to collaborate and get your work done—it just does. That’s the harsh reality here. If you’re only working four days, then the pressure is on to jam-pack all that you can into four days.
2. Higher Levels of Stress
If you’re pressured to cram as much work and meetings as you can in only four days’ time, your stress levels could actually end up being higher than they were during the 5-day work week.
3. Unsatisfied Customers
Think about it: If your whole business shuts down every Friday, your customers might not be too happy about it. After all, 5-day work weeks are still the norm for most people. It makes sense that the people you serve would expect that from your business.
Why Do We Even Have a 5-Day Work Week (40 hours)?
Here’s a history lesson for you: The 40-hour work week that we all know now actually came from Henry Ford—you know, the car guy. He was one of the first business leaders to pioneer the 40-hour work week in America. The workers in Henry Ford’s factory had been putting in eight-hour days—six days a week. That meant they only had one day off to catch a break. Not exactly an ideal working situation.
So, Ford took matters into his own hands. When he decided to give his workers two days off, he saw a huge increase in productivity, not a decrease. And the idea caught on. Ford inspired other leaders to adopt his policy, which helped turn the whole cultural tide against overworking. In 1940, congress changed the Fair Labor Standards Act to make employers pay workers overtime if they worked more than 40 hours—and the 40-hour work week became a done deal.6
Will a 4-Day Work Week Happen in America?
Don’t hold your breath here. It’s true that traditional work has changed a lot since the pandemic, and research shows plenty of benefits from working just four days a week. Still, it would take a lot to convince most businesses to go for this change. Now, that doesn’t mean some companies won’t do it. Just like remote work, it’s going to depend on the company and how they want to run things. If the 4-day work week appeals to you, then look for companies that have that as a benefit—just don’t expect to find a ton of them yet.
Look, if you hate your job, working one day less isn’t going to solve the real problem here. The bigger question is how you can do work that matters to you and go from just collecting a paycheck at your J-O-B to living out your dream job with purpose. This is a huge pain point for most American workers—nearly 70% of Americans aren’t engaged at their jobs.7 But it doesn’t have to be that way. That’s why I wrote my book From Paycheck to Purpose—to give you a clear, step-by-step plan to finding work you love.