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NextGen Magazine


Companies Trying the Four-Day Workweek See Benefits and Drawbacks

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Sep 26, 2023

Hundreds of employers are implementing the four-day workweek, but doing so isn’t so easy, The Wall Street Journal reported.

ThredUp, an Oakland, Calif.-based online clothing reseller, instituted a Monday-to-Thursday week for its nearly 300 salaried employees. To do it, the company addressed “meeting bloat” by having department heads cut meetings by roughly 20 percent after reviewing which ones were necessary and which ones served mostly as progress reports. Managers and workers were trained to run more efficient huddles and send fewer emails. Tuesdays were devoted mostly to uninterrupted focus work.

The company’s nearly 1,500 hourly wage workers in its distribution centers do not get a four-day week, but have the option to work flexible shifts across three to five days. Last year, the company laid off 15 percent of its corporate, salaried workforce to cut costs. More than half of new hires who were surveyed said the shorter workweek was a factor in joining the company and more than 90 percent employees, who the company says are meeting the same goals as before, said the four-day workweek boosted their productivity.

That may not be so for every employer, workforce analytics software maker ActivTrak found when examining the activity of 158,000 employees at 1,900 companies. It found that those at companies with four-day schedules worked slightly fewer hours a day than those working five days, and the four-day workers spent less time on focus work or other productive activity. 

Some interviewed by The Journal cite the difficulty for large companies with customers and staff across time zones and countries to find a shortened schedule that works for all. It is doubtful most businesses can shed a fifth of the workweek and maintain productivity, Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom told The Journal. “Whenever I talk to managers, they find the topic pretty insulting—they argue it implies they are completely wasting a day a week.” He suggested offering the option of four-day schedules at four days’ pay instead.

Phoenix-based online hospitality industry staffing platform Qwick found its staff overwhelmed working a five-day week in late 2021 after laying off two-thirds of its employees in the initial Covid-19 lockdowns, then facing three times the business it normally had due to the post-pandemic rebound.

Moving to a four-day week didn’t feel natural, CMO Retta Kekic told The Journal, but she needed to stem burnout among her employees. Qwick eventually implemented a rolling, seven-day customer-support schedule and automating more processes. It canceled many meetings and streamlined others. 

More than a year later, Kekic said teams such as engineering and customer-support continue to meet their internal metrics each week, and that applications to fill jobs at Qwick have more than doubled. 

Still, the four-day week can be more than just 32 hours at times.

At ThredUp, days sometimes start with a 7 a.m. call to the company’s European teams. Engineers may have to work into the three-day weekend to meet a project deadline or deal with an outage, but can then then take some of their unlimited vacation time to compensate.

Senior director of software engineering Anton Naumenko now devotes Fridays to household chores, grocery runs and other errands. He and his wife will go hiking or cycling when their children are in school. 

“It’s a different life also for our families,” he told The Journal.