Four 4 day work week SA

Some South African companies will be trialing a four-day work week. Image: Adobe Stock

Four-day work week: What are the advantages?

Is the five-day work week a thing of the past? Are more and more companies introducing a four-day work week? How will this help them?

Four 4 day work week SA

Some South African companies will be trialing a four-day work week. Image: Adobe Stock

Popular opinion is that Henry Ford led the charge in introducing a five-day working week in 1926.

Now, almost a hundred years later, the necessity for this is being reevaluated as organisations and country leaders assess whether there is perhaps a better way of working that will increase productivity and profits.

“The five-day working week is a relic of the past and more and more companies and countries are realising the value of introducing a four-day working week,” says Seugnet van den Berg, a founding partner at Bizmod.


Thoughts about changing to a four-day working week have not necessarily been brought on with the pandemic, as many organisations were already exploring this option before. But van den Berg says the pandemic has definitely made people aware of the possibility of more flexible working arrangements and the advantages for all.

She says that currently organisations are competing for a talent pool that has access to global opportunities working virtually. If organisations are going to retain and attract new talent, they need a strategy that will provide employees with a work life balance and more control.

Large organisations, such as Unilever, in New Zealand and Microsoft, in Japan are trialing the four-day working week. Many smaller organisations are also trialing this option and the UK is currently running the world’s biggest trial with over 70 companies taking part. This is based on a 100-80-100 model – 100% pay for 80% of the time in exchange for a commitment of 100% productivity.

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“The advantages of a four-day working week are ample for organisations, employees and the environment,” says van den Berg. She highlights some of the key advantages she feels makes this a viable option below:

  • An increase in productivity: research has shown that productivity is not reduced by a four-day working week. A study by Stanford University revealed a clear correlation between over-worked employees and a decline in productivity during a five-day working week. Microsoft in Japan found productivity boosted by 40% when they introduced a four-day working week. A marketing agency in Scotland saw an increase in profits by 30% and productivity by 24%, the success was assessed not purely on this but also whether their clients noticed the change in workdays without being officially informed. The company implemented an alternative shift arrangement with employees split into working Monday to Thursday and others Tuesday to Friday to ensure clients expectations were always met. No clients noticed the change and the four-day week became a permanent element in the organisation.
  • Attracting and retaining the best talent: we are all looking for a work-life balance and a flexible working environment provides that and is thus a major drawcard for many.
  • Higher moral and efficiency: shorter working weeks allow employees to have more time to recharge. Overworked, stressed and burnout sees employees being less efficient, regardless of the number of workdays. A four-day working week will see employees being more focused, motivated and dedicated while they are at work.
  • Environmental benefits: with less people commuting to the office, there will be a drop in carbon emission. A report in the UK found that changing to a four-day week by 2025 could see the UK’s annual carbon footprint reduce by 127 metric tons, that’s the equivalent of having 27 million cars off the road.

“It would be amiss not to highlight some of the disadvantages,” says van den Berg. The biggest disadvantage is that this cannot be seen as a blanket decision for all industries and employees.

“As with everything there is always good and bad outcomes and leaders of organisations need to assess what will work best for the company.”

Van den Berg concludes that she believes that as more research is done and released showcasing the advantages of a four-day week, we will see more companies in South Africa adopting this model, with the benefits and advantages to employees and organisations being plentiful.