News and Insights / Employer Insights

The Case for the 4-Day Workweek

Office workers

What Offering this Benefit Could Mean for Your Hiring Efforts


If you’re into tech at all, or you get your news online, you’ve probably heard by now that Microsoft Japan experimented with a 4-day workweek. They did so as part of their “Work-Life Choice Challenge,” a project meant to increase work-life balance and productivity by offering more flexible work schedules.

In essence, they closed the office every Friday in August – and the results were astonishing. Microsoft Japan saw a 40% increase in labor productivity, compared to August of last year.

Microsoft Japan isn’t the first company to try out a 4-day workweek, but with the Microsoft name attached to it, there is a ton of buzz around the experiment.

Additionally, even more recently, Finland's Prime Minister announced the entire country would be trying out a 4-day week with 6-hour workdays. And judging by the country's rating as the World's Happiest Country, maybe they're on to something!

Now, we understand this won’t work for every industry, or even every company. Some fields simply require 5-day workweeks – for example, sales and recruiting. However, 4-day workweeks could very well be attainable for your office, so read on to see what the upsides could be to offering this killer benefit and why most fears about productivity are unfounded.

Productivity fears

A big fear employers have about offering employees a 4-day workweek is the effect it’ll have on productivity.

Work meeting

We’re hoping the Microsoft Japan experiment helps assuage some of those fears (by the way, it wasn’t just employees that benefitted from the experiment. The company found that, compared to last year, the number of pages printed decreased by 58.7% and electricity consumption decreased by 23.1%), but there’s always more you can read up on. For instance, Glassdoor ran a great piece on the 4-day workweek that you can read here. It includes input from 7 CEOs who implemented either a 4-day workweek or a choose-your-own-hours arrangement. Well worth the read if you need more proof that productivity, loyalty, and work-life balance increases for employees in a 4-day workweek.

A final note on productivity: research shows that, currently, employees only do about 4 hours of actual work per day, with the rest spent in meetings, administrative toil, etc. Having a condensed week can help employees make the most out of their time. Food for thought.

A 4-day workweek can dramatically impact your hiring efforts

We all know that work-life balance plays a large part in where employees decide to work. A survey conducted by the Workforce Institute at Kronos revealed that 40% of workers in the US would prefer a 4-day workweek, 78% of full-time employees say they could do their job in under 7 hours each day if they could work uninterrupted, and 45% think they could do a day’s work in 5 hours or less.

With flexible schedules being such an appealing and in-demand benefit, it’s no wonder companies are shifting towards 4-day workweeks – it’s a smart move, and it attracts more people: employers that advertise a 4-day schedule receive 13% more applications on average.

Your hiring efforts could be revitalized if you offered the benefits that employees really want, and took steps to ensure work-life balance is a priority.

Do all roads really lead to Rome?

There are a couple ways to implement 4-day workweeks. In some cases, like Microsoft Japan, the employees just got Friday off – they ended up working 32-hour weeks. In other cases, employees worked 4 days, but they worked 10-hour days to compensate for the Friday off.

Startup office workers

A word of caution on this option. At a prior company, I floated the idea of working a 4-day workweek with 10-hour days, and my boss allowed us to test it out. In our field, it ended up being too much – we were all mentally exhausted at the end of the day. It’s only 2 extra hours, sure, but when you’re dealing with extremely sensitive situations, burnout comes much more quickly. Without getting into too much detail, I worked in the headquarters of a security company doing administration of client systems and dealing with panic situations.

If you’re open to testing a 4-day workweek, be mindful of your industry. Mental exhaustion, burnout, and physical exhaustion are very real things, and a 32-hour workweek may be better suited for your employees. It’s all very dependent on your company’s situation. 10-hour days might not be so bad for standard office jobs. Heck, if I had a 10-hour, 4-day workweek here, I’d be ecstatic!

Remember: the key to the 4-day workweek isn’t to try to get blood from a stone – it’s to allow employees greater work-life balance. Sure, both options end up with employees getting an extra day off, but if they’re working rough 10-hour shifts and end up too tired to do anything on Friday, they’re not really better off. Think about your employees and what will make them happier.

The key takeaway

The 4-day workweek isn’t something to be feared; it’s merely where the demand and change in our workforce is taking us. If you really want to hire top talent, you must have an attractive benefits package – and a flexible, 32-hour schedule is a huge bonus, especially since it’s not widely offered.

Lead the charge. Be the change. You’ll be rewarded with productive, loyal, happy employees.


About System One

System One delivers specialized workforce solutions and integrated services. We help clients get work done more efficiently and economically, without compromising quality. For more than 40 years, we’ve built our reputation on exceptional talent, flexible delivery, and full accountability. System One’s national network spans energy, engineering, IT, commercial, scientific & clinical, legal, marketing, and beyond. System One is based in Pittsburgh, PA.

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