Can Small Businesses Benefit from a Four-Day Work Week?

May 30, 2023

The idea of a four-day work week is not a new concept and has been discussed since the late 90’s. However, the topic seemed to ramp up when workers returned post Covid. As an office worker myself, I can relate to the idea of working longer days (for four days a week) to get a three-day weekend and my job would easily allow for this change but is a four-day work week something all small businesses can accommodate?

The short answer is No.

Not all small businesses can make a four-day week work. The reasons for this vary as small businesses have differing service models and products. Most small businesses that are not service-based can implement a four-day work week, regardless of industry or niche. And, certain types of small businesses may be better suited for a four-day work week due to the nature of the work or the needs of the employees. Here are some examples of small businesses that may be well-suited for a four-day work week:

  • Small businesses that operate in an office environment, such as tech startups, marketing firms, or consulting companies, can benefit (see pros later in the article) from a four-day work week. Extra hours can be added to each day to equal a 40-hour week in four working days.
  • Small businesses that manufacture or produce goods may be able to implement a four-day work week by scheduling longer shifts or staggering start times. This can reduce operating costs and increase productivity.
  • Small businesses that specialize in creative fields, such as graphic design, photography, or writing, may benefit from a four-day work week as it allows employees to focus more fully on their creative work and less on completing everything in five, eight-hour timeslots (some of my best ideas come early in the morning!)
  • Small businesses in the retail and hospitality industries may be able to implement a four-day work week by scheduling employees to work longer shifts or staggering start times. This can reduce operating costs and increase productivity while still providing adequate customer service.
  • Small businesses that specialize in health and wellness, such as gyms or spas, may be able to implement a four-day work week by offering more appointments earlier in the morning or later into the evening. This can provide employees with a better work-life balance and reduce operating costs.

If your small business fits into one of the categories above you might want to consider all the reasons a four-day work week can be beneficial. Here are some of the pros:

  • Improved Work-Life Balance: Employees who work four days a week typically have more time to spend with their families, pursue hobbies, or take care of personal errands. This can lead to a better work-life balance, reducing stress levels and improving overall job satisfaction.
  • Increased Productivity: Studies have shown that employees who work four days a week are more productive than those who work five days a week. This is because they have a longer period of uninterrupted time to focus on their tasks and are better able to prioritize their work.
  • Cost Savings: Employers can save money on utilities, equipment, and office space if they have fewer employees in the office each day. Additionally, employees may save money on commuting costs if they are only required to travel to work four days a week.
  • Employee Retention: Offering a four-day work week can be a valuable employee retention tool. It can help attract and retain top talent and make the company a more attractive place to work.

Alternatively, there can be downsides to a four-day work week that depend on the type of business you run. It is important to consider both sides of the arrangement before trying this new work model. If you do decide to trial a four-day work week here are a couple best practices, you can follow to set your business up for success:

  • Set clear goals and expectations for employees to ensure they are using their time effectively. Establish measurable benchmarks and deadlines to track progress and productivity.
  • Communication is key when implementing a four-day work week. Make sure all employees are aware of the schedule and expectations and be available to answer any questions or concerns that arise.
  • Coordinate work schedules to ensure that there is adequate coverage and that employees can work collaboratively when necessary. Consider adjusting work schedules to allow for staggered shifts or flexible start and end times to accommodate different employee needs.
  • Help employees adjust to the new schedule and workload. Consider offering resources such as time management training, wellness programs, or support groups to help employees manage stress and maintain work-life balance.
  • Regularly evaluate the success of the four-day work week trial and make adjustments as necessary. Solicit feedback from employees and monitor productivity and other key metrics to ensure that the schedule is meeting the needs of the business and its employees.

In summary, businesses that require 24/7 staffing or have fixed hours of operation may find it difficult to implement a four-day work week without compromising customer service. Seasonal businesses or those with limited staffing may find it challenging to implement a four-day work week without overburdening their employees or reducing productivity. A four-day work week can be beneficial for small businesses, but it requires careful planning and management to ensure that it is successful. Regardless of model or industry, the specific needs of your business and your employees are the crucial components that should influence the best changes for your work schedule.

-Sarah Elchuk is a Product Consultant on the Revenue Growth Team at Directwest.