4-Day Workweeks: The Honest Problems as Well as the Benefits

A candid look at the struggles and triumphs of the 4-day workweek movement.
Updated Jan. 31, 2024
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Many American workers have been beholden to the 40-hour, five-day workweek since the early 1900s, even as they struggle to stop living paycheck to paycheck

In recent years, however, companies have toyed with the idea of a four-day workweek, and many employees welcome the conversation.

While employees say there are many benefits to only clocking in for four days a week, there may also be some drawbacks to consider. Here are some pros and cons of a four-day workweek.

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Pro: Better work-life balance

Monkey Business/Adobe relaxing in car during road trip

It may go without saying that working fewer days out of the week can help improve employee work-life balance. 

Not having to work as much can make it easier to start traveling more, spend time with family and friends, or whatever else your heart desires.

You wouldn't have to cram all your trips and visits into just two days. And those with a physically strenuous job can have more time to recoup before returning to work.

Pro: Makes childcare a little bit easier

PoppyPix/Adobe teacher playing with toddlers in classroom, building Lego blocks on the floor.

Many working parents struggle to find childcare for their kids during the day — whether they're infants who need constant attention or third-graders who need after-school care. Not requiring parents to work five days can lessen this burden.

Pro: Increased employee morale

Surachetsh/Adobe asian office working girl

Working fewer days can also boost morale, perhaps because employees can return to the office refreshed after enjoying their time off. This can lead to more satisfied employees for companies, which businesses love.

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Pro: Increased productivity

insta_photos/Adobe middle aged professional business man

There is a belief that if employees have less time to complete tasks, they may feel a greater sense of urgency to complete them. 

This could mean people get their work done sooner than they would during a five-day workweek. This increase in productivity can be significant in helping businesses reach those ever-looming goals.

Pro: More energized employees

GrahamF/peopleimages.com/Adobe happy male employee working on computer

It's all like a cascading effect. More balance, satisfaction, and productivity can certainly energize workers in the office. They'll likely feel more motivated while on the clock if they feel happy and successful.

Pro: Increased diversity

Nicholas Felix/peopleimages.com/Adobe woman with a disability and a tablet

Shortening the workweek to four days can open the door to employment for so many more people. Those who may need to tend to other commitments, such as those with disabilities, can have the opportunity to work while still having time for regular doctor visits or meetings.

Pro: Better retention

fizkes/Adobe vacancy candidate shaking hand of hr manager

If employees feel their needs (both work-related and non-work-related) are being met and they are happier in the workplace, they may feel more loyal to the company. 

If workers stay in their jobs and turnover decreases, companies won't have to spend as much money and time on constant hiring and onboarding.

Pro: More employee engagement

fizkes/Adobe colleagues fist bumping greeting each other

Happier, satisfied employees may feel they can be more present — and engaged — in their jobs when they're clocked in. Because their needs are being met, they may not get sidetracked with other responsibilities. When they're working, they're working.

Pro: Better for the environment

Вячеслав Думчев/Adobe young woman sits in a car

A shorter workweek can also be good for the environment. That's one less day of highways packed full during rush hour and one less day of lunchtime trash and food waste.

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Pro: Reduced costs for business

Rieth/Adobe Presenting and evaluating data chart

A four-day workweek may be just good business, too. Think of the reduced facilities costs, like fewer hours with the heat or A/C running. And think of how companies could reinvest these savings.

Con: May not work for all businesses

Courtney/peopleimages.com/Adobe doctor and nurse

A four-day workweek may not be the best strategy for all types of companies. Those that need round-the-clock coverage, like hospitals or newsrooms, may find this approach problematic. 

More employees may need to be hired to cover the extra "off" time of the previously five-day-a-week workers.

Con: May not be good for clients

motortion/Adobe unhappy senior boss sitting at office

Shortening the workweek could lead to decreased customer satisfaction. Clients are already worn thin trying to schedule appointments and meetings with companies around their schedules. 

If the time you can access a business is cut down, that could lead to customer disappointment and potentially missed business.

Con: Employees may have more work to do

Nina Lawrenson/peopleimages.com/Adobe woman with headache working in office

Just because employees work less during the week, that may not necessarily mean they have less to do. 

With a four-day workweek, people may get stuck with more work than they can complete. And rushing to get it done could potentially lead to decreased performance.

Con: People could end up working longer days

D Lahoud/peopleimages.com/Adobe business woman experiencing burnout at work

Employees working a four-day workweek could feel compelled to work more hours (or be required to) during those days to catch up on all their work. And working longer hours, as we've already seen in many industries, can lead to burnout.

Con: Could be difficult for companies to implement

Nkalipho M/peopleimages.com/Adobe businessman talking to staff

A four-day workweek could be a big change for people. If leaders at a business have been operating on a five-day workweek for a long time (like decades), they may struggle with successfully implementing a shorter schedule. 

Whether they have difficulty seeing the benefits of a four-day workweek or face challenges in rolling it out, employees could get a lot of talk with no action.

Bottom line

Antonioguillem/Adobe lady gesturing thumbs up

Some companies have already implemented a four-day workweek, and many employees feel it's no longer necessary to work every weekday to get ahead financially.

While there can be many benefits to a four-day workweek, like improved work-life balance and increased employee diversity, it could also bring some challenges for companies.

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Author Details

Liz Lane Liz Lane is a freelance writer who likes to help people understand complex topics like finance. She's passionate about making the most of her hard-earned money and wants to make sure her readers have the tools to do the same. She has worked for NBC, "Inside Edition," "The Dr. Oz Show," and more.

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