In a post-pandemic world, employees have learned more than ever that we don’t live to work. We work to live.
With this groundswell of change in workforce flexibility, hybrid setups and work-from-home models are not just becoming the norm, they’re expected to be offered in a competitive market. Another huge shift in mentality can now be seen in the rise in popularity of the four-day work week.
It was first tried in Iceland in 2015. The Nordic country embarked on a groundbreaking experiment of the four-day work week, involving more than 2,500 public sector workers, in an effort to improve work–life balance and productivity.
The results were remarkable – employees maintained or even increased their productivity, while experiencing reduced stress and burnout.
This experiment demonstrated the feasibility and benefits of a shorter work week, sparking global conversations on reshaping traditional work schedules to enhance employee wellbeing and overall efficiency.
"The 100:80:100 principle, founded by 4 Day Week Global, is the simple methodology we use in all our case studies." – Dale Whelehan
Five years after Iceland’s trial, The CEO Magazine speaks to companies that have embraced the concept to find out exactly how it works, if it has impacted their bottom line and what their learnings have been.
Based in New Zealand, 4 Day Week Global helps companies, individuals and governments around the world roll out a successful four-day week model using its pilot program and the 100:80:100 principle, which has been tested in six continents to date.
Dale Whelehan, CEO of 4 Day Week Global, says the concept is simple.
"The 100:80:100 principle, founded by 4 Day Week Global, is the simple methodology we use in all our case studies," he says. "It encourages companies to pay 100 percent of their salary for 80 percent of the time, but still get 100 percent of the productivity or business outputs."
In a nutshell, it’s about working smarter, not harder.
It Starts with Trust
The success of the four-day week is dependent on managers trusting their teams to get their work done in the agreed hours, says Rosie Davies-Smith, Founder of PR Dispatch, a PR platform that combines media contacts and DIY PR learning.
The United Kingdom-based firm’s team of five employees started the four-day work week in September 2022.
"I think a key part of the four-day work week success lies in the trust and ownership the team demonstrates in their work," Davies-Smith tells The CEO Magazine.
"I firmly believe that if you can’t trust a team member to maintain the quality of work and meet deadlines in a four-day work week scenario, then their suitability for the role is questionable even in a five-day work week."
"Trust that your employees want the company to be successful as well." – Denis Moriarty
It’s a sentiment shared by Denis Moriarty, Group Managing Director of Our Community, a Melbourne-based organization that employs around 90 people and provides advice, connections, training and easy-to-use tech tools for people and organizations working to build stronger communities.
"Trust that your employees want the company to be successful as well," he says.
Moriarty also admits that after Melbourne’s relentless lockdowns during the pandemic, he had to reinvent the company’s structure. "Life has changed forever, and expecting people to travel to and from work every weekday is archaic," he insists.
He explains that once you empower your staff with the trust to get their work done on their outlined days, it has a hugely positive impact on the team’s overall attitude, morale and motivation.
"When we trust people with this challenge and re-establish a psychological contract between the employer and employee, we instill a huge increase in the intrinsic motivation of the workforce," 4 Day Week Global’s Whelehan points out.
He says the biggest benefits of a four-day model are increased productivity leading to improved business performance and revenue generation; improved staff wellbeing and better work–life balance; positive impacts on women who may be the primary caretaker of young children; reduced commuting time; and more pro-sustainable behaviors.
Innovative New Strategies
Another key element to successfully transitioning a business to a four-day work week is rethinking outdated systems and processes.
For Shai Aharony, Founder and Managing Director of Reboot, a London-based SEO and marketing firm, one of the most radical yet effective new strategies has been changing how the team approaches internal meetings.
"We try to limit our internal meetings and only set them when necessary with the key people who need to attend. We found that you can quickly make up for the extra day not at work just by not having so many scheduled meetings," Aharony says of his 80-person company, which has been working four days a week since August 2021.
A shift in the team’s overall mindset was also crucial to a seamless and robust four-day structure at Reboot.
"We are driven by outcomes rather than hours. We have set clear, measurable objectives for our team and ensure that those are completed, rather than looking at hours worked," Aharony notes.
"We are driven by outcomes rather than hours." – Rosie Davies-Smith
Davies-Smith also looked at the bigger picture, changing her business to a subscriber-based model so it could bolster and support the company’s four-day structure.
While the PR industry often feels the need to be on 24/7 and constantly contactable for its clients, this revamped model meant that clients could access PR Dispatch’s services when they needed them while also bringing in new business leads, even on the team’s day off.
"Our members pay only three percent of what a traditional agency-client would pay," Davies-Smith says. "PR Dispatch, unlike traditional agencies, offers a more flexible and cost-effective solution to PR needs.
"Our model allows members to access our learning, database and community when they require them, rather than having to keep us on retainer continuously."
The financial implications of adopting a four-day work week at PR Dispatch have been surprisingly positive, she says.
"Given our subscription-based model, many of our processes, especially those related to email marketing and sales, are highly automated. This means that even during our off day on Fridays, we continue to channel potential leads through our sales funnel, secure sign-ups and onboard new members," Davies-Smith says.
In other companies around the world that have used 4 Day Week Global’s services, Whelehan says out-of-the-box thinking toward the traditional work week has seen impactful results.
"Some companies split work patterns by making some staff Monday to Thursday and others Tuesday to Friday. Other businesses have a shortened day across five days to be equivalent to a 32-hour work week," Whelehan reveals.
Happy Team, Happy Bottom Line
Many skeptics worry that a shorter work week could lead to decreased output, missed deadlines and financial implications. But these founders and CEOs say that couldn’t be further from the truth, with productivity, bottom lines and morale all tracking on an upward trajectory.
"Staff now say they could never work for an organization that requires a five-day week, it just changes their lives. What people do on that extra day off is often the talk of the office. Our company is now bigger, bolder and more profitable," Moriarty insists.
"We make KPIs and output expectations clear from day one and work to support our team with time management and prioritization techniques." – Shai Aharony
Aharony agrees. "We make KPIs and output expectations clear from day one and work to support our team with time management and prioritization techniques," he says.
"We have been lucky enough not to see a fall in productivity, and monthly revenue is actually on the up. We have experienced a 702 percent increase in results and outputs."
Whelehan cites that on average, the companies 4 Day Week Global has supported have seen a 35 percent uptick in revenue. But beyond the data, the human impact is the most compelling aspect.
"People talk about having the time to look after their elderly parents, reduce their childcare costs, take up volunteering," he says. "These are the important things in life for many of us. We just haven’t been given the time to do them to date."