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How does a 4-day workweek work?

A 4-day workweek can work a little differently depending on a business’s needs. Some businesses may be able to operate just 4-days per week and give workers an extra day off. While other businesses may not be able to operate only 4-days a week. For those businesses, staggering schedules to ensure you have appropriate coverage everyday may be necessary to implement a 4-day workweek.

The different approaches to a shortened workweek also vary by the number of hours worked in a day, the total number of hours per week, the amount of work expected to be done, pay, and other factors. Typically, employees either work:

  • 32 hours over four days.
  • 40 hours over four days (nonexempt workers in some states must be paid overtime for anything over eight hours per day, so this may not work for some employers).

Ideally, even when reducing the total number of hours, you may find that your workers accomplish the same amount of work in a 4-day workweek as in the usual five-day schedule. When reducing hours and expecting the same amount of work, if employers adjust employee compensation so overall pay remains the same, they may find that employees are much happier and more productive.

What are the pros and cons of a 4-day workweek for employers?

While the 4-day workweek may sound like a benefit for employees only, it can be one of those rare win-win situations. The primary benefits to employers include:

  • An edge in recruiting highly skilled and loyal workers.
  • Less downtime when employees are working.
  • A more motivated workforce that does not “watch the clock” as much.
  • A less stressed workforce.
  • Cost savings that come with one less day of business per week, such as for office energy and staffing.

Because the push for a 4-day workweek is driven mainly by the workers that can demand a better work-life balance, the biggest benefit for employers is that they can recruit and keep the top talent in their industry.

A 4-day workweek, however, does come with some drawbacks, and may not work for every type of business, or every type of employee. For example, businesses that adopt the 10-hour day model may find that worker fatigue can be a problem toward the end of a shift. Additional drawbacks of a 4-day workweek for employers may include:

  • Customers or clients may not like your new schedule.
  • Vendor deliveries may require more careful planning.
  • Scheduling conflicts.
  • Hiring more workers.

It is a best practice for employers who use a 4-day workweek to spell out the details and what they expect from workers in their Employee Handbook.

If employees work four 10-hour days per week, do they get overtime?

This depends on your state’s labor laws. In California, Nevada, Colorado, and Alaska, for example, any hours worked beyond eight in one day may require paying overtime, typically one-and-a-half times the usual rate, for nonexempt employees. In these states, the total number of hours worked in a week does not matter.

Many states base overtime on hours worked in a given week. This means employees are not owed overtime if they work four 10-hour days as long as they do not go over 40 hours in a week.

If you have questions about how overtime laws may affect your company's 4-day workweek, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

How do I decide if my 4-day workweek experiment is successful?

As with any new way of working, it is a good idea to approach the 4-day workweek with caution and proper planning. A helpful method is to start with a trial period and measure the results against benchmarks. Before starting a trial-run, it can be helpful to ask yourself:

  • What is your average output per week?
  • How do you measure productivity?
  • What are you hoping to achieve by moving to a 4-day workweek?
  • Will your staff and management support the decision?

Once you are committed to giving it a go, you may want to focus on a few key metrics to figure out whether the shorter week is accomplishing your goals. The metrics you choose might include:

  • Gross revenue.
  • Sales.
  • Productivity.
  • Operating costs.
  • Customer acquisition.

In short, choose the metrics best suited to evaluate your company’s success. Other factors that are harder to measure, such as employee stress levels, may still be important to keep an eye on. You may want to be patient as your business adjusts, however, be ready to make adjustments as you go.

When you review your metrics, consider also checking in with your workers. You may ask workers to complete a confidential survey, or just ask for feedback. Also, do not forget to account for factors other than your 4-day workweek that may affect your results. In the end, if the amount of work your company is getting done has not slowed, nor increased, then the new schedule may be considered a success.

If you have questions or concerns about switching over to a 4-day workweek, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.


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