Is a four day work week better? At first glance this seems like an obvious question from an employee perspective. The employer perspective might be different, but who wouldn’t want to work less hours. This is particularly relevant in the US where there are some of the highest hours of work. I started reserving Fridays for non-client meetings and it works well for me. It provides the opportunity to work on important but less urgent things. If you think the answer is obvious, I’m going to challenge your thinking.
Does the four day work week generate higher engagement?
Gallup recently published the results of a survey of the impact of a four day work week. Here are their conclusions:
- Those who work six days a week had the highest rates of burnout, the lowest percentage of thriving overall wellbeing and the highest active disengagement.
- Those who work five days a week had the highest engagement and lowest burnout rates.
- Those with four-day work weeks had the lowest active disengagement, but they did not have significantly higher thriving wellbeing compared with those who work five days a week. They also reported higher rates of burnout compared with those who work five days per week.
I wasn’t surprised about people who work six days a week. I did that for a while and their conclusion sums up my experience. Working longer and harder doesn’t lead to better results or more satisfaction. I am very surprised by the results for people who work five days a week. They had the highest levels of engagement, but why didn’t four days have the highest levels of engagement? My initial reaction is due to trying to cram five days of work into four days. Are four highly stressed days better than five average days? Probably not.
The real answer
I assumed this is where Gallup ended up but they had a more profound conclusion which makes sense to me.
“When it comes to overall wellbeing, the quality of the work experience has 2.5x to 3x the impact of the number of days or hours worked.”
Now this resonates with me. If I love what I am doing and how I am doing it, work isn’t a burden. Working five days is satisfying, in fact it may be preferable to working four. I suspect having the flexibility of when to work is more important. I don’t work on a regular schedule, I work when I need to and when I want to. My schedule isn’t completely flexible but I have a lot of agency over it. I also don’t have a boss so I don’t get to suffer under a poor one. The quality of an employees manager has in my opinion the biggest impact on their engagement.
What is your experience of a four day work week? Do the results of the Gallup four day work week survey resonate with you? Are we barking up the wrong tree?