Benefits of shorter work week for your business

Apr 05, 2024

As more and more countries follow Iceland in adopting a four-day work week, workforces worldwide are now looking at their own countries, wondering if they might get shorter working hours too. That's a hard "If"!

Shorter working hours for employees have become a hot topic recently, with many favoring a four-day work week as a stable work-life balance structure.

In contrast, others believe that shorter work days may prove to be even more stressful for corporate workers.

With endless discussions around reducing working hours for employees, the question remains – Will shorter work days improve employee productivity or reduce overall business efficiency?

Working hours have a direct impact on employees and their efficiency

For the older generations of the workforce, having a work-life balance was an elusive dream.

In an environment manufactured by the corporate sector, overworking has been largely glorified and given as justification to assert one's importance within an organization.

The culture of long working hours for employees has resulted in serious consequences.

One prime example of this can be the Japanese work culture that invented the word karoshi, literally meaning "death from overwork".

An average Japanese worker logs in 80 hours a week; this culture of overworking has led to several deaths related to work-related stress and tension.

How overworking is counterproductive for the business?

Research conducted on overworking shows that working longer hours doesn't necessarily result in employee productivity or efficiency.

Working longer hours has no direct correlation with increased output for performance. On the contrary, having longer working hours for employees is not just a neutral aspect of their lives – it hurts your employees and your company.

When companies fail to reduce hours of work, they are indirectly threatening their employees' mental and physical well-being.

Overworking leads to faster burnout, impaired memory, depression, insomnia, heart disease, and more. 

Not just in their personal lives, overworking have adverse effects on employees' professional front too.

Having longer working hours for employees can lead to poor decision-making skills, interpersonal communication, and faulty management style.

More than just employee performance, long working hours can result in absenteeism, higher health insurance costs, and impacted annual turnover, thereby harming the company's revenue in the long run.

Costs of reducing working hours for businesses

Reducing working hours for employees doesn't just affect employee productivity and overall business efficiency.

Shorter work days may also result in both cost-saving and incurring losses.

From a business point of view, reducing working hours can eliminate around 20% of their variable expenses such as electricity, energy, janitorial services, cleaning services, and more.

With shorter work days, companies may withhold monetary perks and slash a percentage of employees' salaries to reduce hours of work. 

However, there is a much bigger cost to think of when reducing working hours for employees. This cost is known as the "opportunity cost of lost sales".

With shorter work days for employees, businesses stand to lose potential and lucrative sales, which can create a massive dent in their annual revenue.

Moreover, docking pays for shorter working hours for employees may deeply dissatisfy them, leading to even lesser sales.

Reduced working hours for employees and normal working hours for others might appear like a managerial bias, which can seriously impact employee productivity management overall. 

This means that while there are no quantifiable bad losses to the company, the consequences of implementing shorter work days for employees can drastically affect your company in the long run.

Do shorter working hours for employees boost or harm your business?

A four-day work week is a delicate balance of employee efficiency and business productivity. While it has the potential to benefit your employees immensely, it also has the power to harm your business ruthlessly.

Advantages of shorter work days

1. Better work-life balance

A four-day work week brings a fresh breath of an extra day to your employees’ lives, helping them have extra time to spend with their families. An extra day allows employees to follow their passions, schedule appointments, travel, and have a well-rounded life. This flexibility can lead to truly happier employees.

2. Improve employee well-being

Having shorter working hours for employees can significantly improve their overall well-being.

A decreased workload can result in lower stress levels.

This helps your employees avoid major health problems in life. Moreover, less stress and a lower workload free up their time to pursue physically active and mentally stimulating activities.

3. Increased employee productivity

Research has shown that shorter work days can actually boost overall employee productivity and efficiency.

Employees are twice as motivated to get work done with one less day to finish their obligations.

This results in better time management, work prioritization, and a decrease in classic time wasters such as long meetings and more.

Disadvantages of shorter work days

1. Major changes in paid time off policy

With a four-day work week, companies face lesser time to get work done, which can inevitably change the paid time off (PTO) policy at work.

Not only that, but it can also result in more stringent policies around working hours, such as timesheets, which might result in a more controlling and micromanaging environment for your employees.

2. Longer over time

While some employees may finish their work within the stipulated shorter work days, there will be others who won't be able to get the work done in time to enjoy the long weekend.

In this case, a four-day work week can ironically turn into six days of work simply because the employees did not have enough time. This can also build employee resentment.

3. Industry incompatibility

Shorter work days may not work owing to the industry a particular company is in.

Industries such as healthcare and security cannot justify a four-day work week since their services naturally extend beyond the time frame.

Similarly, the customer service department of most companies may not have the privilege of having a four-day work week since it can lead to customer dissatisfaction that can impact revenue and retention.

Shorter working hours for employees is the newest change in the ongoing fourth industrial revolution in the 21st century.

While there is some merit to the shorter work days and their employee-related benefits, only time and careful implementation will tell us whether it is feasible in our current corporate climate.