The concept of a four-day work week has been gaining significant traction with business and HR leaders in recent years, says Amrita Puniani.

A shorter workweek can be a key differentiator for organisations in the talent marketplace and it can help meet employees’ evolving needs for a better work-life balance, lower burnout and provide them the rest that can in turn improve their performance at work.

These benefits are not just hypothetical: Following large-scale trials of the four-day work week in over 60 organisations across the UK, 71 percent of participating employees reported lower levels of burnout and talent attrition in the participating companies reduced by 57 percent. As a result of the demonstrated benefits for employees and organisations alike, 92 percent of participating employers said they would continue with a shorter work week.

For organisations facing similar challenges around employee fatigue, work-life balance, and talent retention, a four-day work week could be a potent solution helping alleviate part of the problem.

Despite the positive results, HR leaders are hesitant to implement a four-day work week in their own organisations due to operational hurdles and scepticism from senior executives. Forward-looking HR leaders are now exploring what a roadmap to a four-day work week looks like and how to secure leadership and managerial buy-in.

The key to overcoming these perceived barriers is to acknowledge that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a four-day work week. Many leaders remain unfamiliar with the various ways to structure a shorter work week. Organisations can explore several kinds of models depending on their size, industry, and workforce structure. Moreover, to address uncertainty from executives, HR leaders should be methodical in how they evaluate the effectiveness of this working model for their organisation and adapt it based on early implementation results.

Setting your organisation up for success with gradual implementation

There are different perceptions about the barriers to a four-day work week across many industries, so when implementing this initiative, CHROs should use a ‘crawl-walk-run’ approach to address these challenges on a piecemeal basis.

It is important to recognise that the starting point of this ‘crawl-walk-run’ approach for each organisation, or even industry, will look different. The ‘crawl’ stage represents a more experimental state where organisations pilot a four-day work week, such as summer Fridays. The second intermediate stage, or the ‘walk’ stage, is where leaders feel their organisations are ready to expand the pilot’s scope and allow for continuous improvements in the model’s application. The final or ‘run’ stage is where leaders strive for an organisation-wide, permanent implementation of a four-day work week.

This approach enables leadership to gradually trial the programme, collect employee feedback and adjust to the operational challenges if or when they arise. In this way, organisation-specific challenges can be addressed before a company speeds ahead on its implementation journey.

Structuring working hours that best fit your business

For many organisations, busy schedules, and a traditional culture of presenteeism prove to be a barrier to implementing a four-day work week. Additionally, increased work hours often lead to employee fatigue which reduces employee ability to perform their best by 13 percent and sustain their performance by 26 percent.

A four-day work week provides proactive rest and recovery that can solve for employee fatigue and improve employee performance. But to meet business needs and ensure continuity of operations, a simple 32-hour work week approach won’t work for every organisation. Several options can still achieve the intended results based on two decisions – how many working hours per week are required and when to provide the additional weekday off. For working hours, HR leaders can choose between a condensed or reduced work week. In a condensed work week organisations continue with the 40-hour week, but in four days, resulting in 10-hour work shifts. A reduced work week is when organisations reduce the week to 32 hours, which is 4 days of 8-hour shifts. For working days, HR leaders can choose the day that is given off, depending on factors like business continuity, demand, and flexibility. They can either give the same day off or stagger the off day across all employees.

Ultimately, the structure implemented is dependent on the needs of the organisation, and HR leaders must steer away from the presenteeism mindset and cultivate an output-based approach that prioritises distraction-free work, saves time and establishes comprehensive metrics for measuring productivity, including revenue, recruitment, and employee engagement.

Will it last?

Leaders in various organisations grapple with apprehensions about the long-term sustainability of a four-day work week, the ongoing question of ‘will it last?’. There is a pervasive fear that investing significant time and resources into this transition might not yield the expected benefits, potentially setting the organisation back and causing unnecessary disruption.

However, if your organisation is trying to solve for talent retention, reduced employee fatigue and performance improvement, then a four-day work week makes sense, and the above apprehensions can be overcome through thoughtful implementation. Use the ‘crawl-walk-run’ approach and evaluate the needs of the business to structure working hours accordingly.

While some leaders may still approach the concept of a shorter work week with scepticism and caution, organisations need to prioritise the evaluation of its potential benefits as a business case. They need to thoroughly assess their readiness to adopt a four-day work week, identifying necessary steps, including trial programs, and making informed decisions about its implementation. However, this will require a significant shift in mindset to fully appreciate and realise the benefits of a four-day work week before proceeding with the transition.


Amrita Puniani is an experienced Research and Analysis professional with experience spread across market and academic research.