Skip to main content

These are the pitfalls of a 4-day workweek you haven’t thought about

While employees love the idea of a 4-day work week, employers need to give it some more thought

Ah, the four-day workweek. Take Friday off for an early weekend, Monday off for a long weekend, or Wednesday to break up the week. Sounds nice, right? While there are several advantages to a four-day work week, employees are expected to deliver the same amount of production in the same number of hours. In other words, it ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.

Putting in too much time at work, even for shorter stints, leads to stress, burnout, disconnect, scheduling conflicts, and bigger bills. In short, four-day work weeks might seem sweet, but they could fail employees and organizations. So, don’t quit your job yet. This is why a four-day workweek might not be as awesome as it sounds.

A person sitting at their desk working on the computer in an office.

It could lead to more stress

Going from two- to three-day weekends is an increase in time off. Woohoo! It also means a 20% decrease in the days required to work. Double plus.

However, according to Boston University Today, companies and employees should be aware of the negative that balances this positive. Reducing workdays by one usually doesn’t reduce the required productivity or hours required to work, and squeezing 40 hours into four days means a more intense schedule. 

BU Today advises that everyone involved in a four-day change first be mindful of how much needs to get done, collaborate on schedule issues (how often people have to meet, connect, etc.), and watch for cracks in the camaraderie as stress threatens to spill over into burnout.

A group having a meeting at work, using a whiteboard.

It could require additional customer support

Businesses (especially small businesses) grow, in part, due to a dedicated customer base. Whether it be a food cart in front of a hardware store or an international service helping to scaffold infrastructure, four-day schedules and a one-fifth decrease in days worked make attending to customer needs more difficult.

A platform called Buffer helps small businesses level up and grow their social and digital presence. Through a unique solution through experimentation over six months, management determined what days people preferred to take off (usually Monday or Friday), measured how customer service response times and solutions changed, and then set corresponding goals.

The mix works well for them, which shows the importance of collecting data to analyze how the four-day workweek affects core processes like customer service. Businesses that have the time or the human capital to devote to examining how the switch affects output should do so.

A big group all sitting at a large desk with people on their laptops in a large office room.

A one-size schedule does not fit all

According to Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research Professor of Economics John Pencavel, in moving to a more compact schedule there needs to be team buy-in for an honest test and evaluation of the four-day workweek.

“My position on the four-day working week and, indeed, on changes in hours in general, is that firms and workers in each workplace need to determine what suits them best,” Pencavel said in an email. “In other words, I would like to see firms and workers experiment with different work time arrangements. What suits one workplace may not suit another.”

Pencavel cites experiments where an employer instituted a shorter working week for one year. After this time, either party could return to five days or remain on the new work schedule.

“My guess is that, if such experiments are conducted, at many firms, a shorter working week will suit both the management and the workers, but at other firms, the new schedule will not be preferred to the older one. One arrangement will not apply to all workplaces.”

Management and the entire team need to agree on what works best, and those that don’t feel the setup is right for them will need to find a way to adjust or move on.

People having a meeting while sitting down at a desk.

How it applies to parents and teachers

Working a four-day workweek requires flexibility, which is fine for folks without kids. But what happens when parents set in a five-day routine suddenly have to work more hours during the day due to shifting to a more “convenient” four-day week? How would a universal adoption of the four-day workweek affect teachers and students? Does society move schools to four-day weeks?

This wouldn’t work with all schedules and could easily cause logistical nightmares for parents. Do we require that children stay in school five days a week? How is that fair for teachers? Would this lead to animosity and collective bargaining for shorter work weeks? There are a lot of questions that communities will have to address if four-day workweeks become the norm.

Two people having a quick work meeting while sitting down.

Businesses could face higher costs for more well-adjusted employees

Cutting back on the number of days/hours worked might require businesses to hire more labor or pay daily overtime rates, which increases costs. More staff putting in time during peak utility hours also risks higher utility bills. Going to a four-day workweek could require cutting back on profits, which wouldn’t be popular for many U.S. companies.

Scandinavian switches to shorter hours have borne this costlier effect out to a positive return, improving service with a more well-adjusted workforce. In a study cited by Bamboo HR, when the orthopedics wing of a Swedish healthcare institution switched to six-hour shifts for nurses, costs increased by about $123,000 a month.

This wasn’t the only quantitative switch, though. On the positive side, Orthopedics was able to bring on 15 new employees, thus extending surgical hours, upping operations by 20%, and slicing surgical wait times from months to weeks.

While transitioning to a four-day workweek will require a monumental shift for the staff, it shouldn’t be considered without a bit of scrutiny, reflection, and a willingness to adapt. For most, the benefits outweigh the downsides, but that’s no reason to ignore the adjustments that would need to be made. The balance between the pros and cons of the four-day work week still need to be weighed by each individual company to see if it will fit their culture.

Editors' Recommendations

Dannielle Beardsley
Dannielle has written for various websites, online magazines, and blogs. She loves everything celebrity and her favorite…
Why you should start pouring more into your 401k and IRA
If you ever want to take a break from life, then start your retirement planning right now
Someone going over their financials.

It costs a lot to be alive these days, and most of us aren't sure how we're going to afford to retire. You know you should have started pumping money into your retirement account yesterday, but what if you haven't been? Or you have, but you don't think it's nearly enough? You aren't alone in wondering about this stuff, and the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and Greenwald Research conducted a survey about it. We'll break down how people feel about retirement planning — and why you need to get on top of it right now.
The decline in confidence in the last year
From only 2022 to 2023, the rate of decline in the faith that we have enough money saved in our 401K retirement plan or IRA dropped the most it has since that 2008 crash. The survey sussed out people currently working and those already retired are worried about their financial retirement planning. We're having flashbacks to 2008, and the parallels between then and now are making us anxious.
How people positively felt about having enough for retirement

Those still working dropped from 73% to 64%
Those already retired dropped from 77% to 73%

Read more
5 types of cigars you need to know about

If you've never really enjoyed a cigar, maybe it's not you; it's the smokes themselves -- perhaps you just haven't found the right cigar for your pleasure. It's a given that the aroma and flavor of a cigar are primarily derived from the tobacco used to make it, both the filling and the wrapper. But cigar type, meaning shape and size, also significantly impacts how a stogie tastes and smells, not to mention how its profile changes during the smoking process.

Those huge cigars passed out at bachelor parties may start smooth but can end up heavy and harsh as they burn down. Likewise, a slender cigarillo may burn hot and intense from the start: Size and shape don't play a direct role in how the cigar will taste or how mellow or potent it will be, but they do dictate the smoke time and, depending on the tobacco used, how the cigar will change while burning down.

Read more
No more empty storefronts: Pickleball is (probably) coming to a mall near you
From Old Navy to pickleball — see how malls are making the most of vacant spaces
A group of people playing a game of pickleball.

We all do it. Every time we drive by a mall that has empty stores, we say how we remember when so-and-so store used to be there. With all of these closures creating vacant spots, you wonder what we could do with them all. Someone thought up a plan to fill those closed retail spaces that don't involve another clothing store. If you've never thought about going to the mall to play pickleball, we'll tell you why that's about to change.
The closed stores are being revamped
The latest run of closures comes from companies like Old Navy and Bed Bath & Beyond, where the square footage is extremely large. Those types of stores are harder to fill with another retailer if another big-box store isn't going to move in.

So, what do we put in there? Ideas like movie theaters, breweries, and arcades are popping up, keeping the spots full and giving customers something else to do when going to the mall. But what about those malls that already have a movie theater in the parking lot? They are getting a little more creative.
Why pickleball makes sense
We get putting in a movie theater in a mall, but why pickleball? If you think about it, it benefits the whole community. 

Read more