Is the 3-Day Workweek Coming?

December 14, 2022
Is the 3-Day Workweek Coming?
We’ve heard plenty about the 4-day workweek, but what about the 3-day workweek? Many employers may be scratching their heads at the thought of reducing the working week even more. But many of the studies we know about work suggest that it could be an option for some businesses. For example, we know that the average worker is productive for 3 hours a day, with some studies citing that the maximum number of productive hours is 6. In addition, workers favor flexibility and PTO days when it comes to benefits packages. A 4-day weekend is certainly an attractive offer for many Millennial and Gen Z employees. While there aren’t many companies offering this benefit, the ones that do offer such programs say that a 3-day workweek has improved retention, reduced burnout, and increased productivity. And while it may seem counterintuitive to condense a 40-hour week into such a short time frame, some workers actually prefer it. Of course, the main question many businesses have is whether or not such a short workweek is even possible. There aren’t many case studies on the 3-day workweek — yet. But we do have a significant example from a Chick-Fil-A in Miami.

What is Chick-Fil-A's 3-day workweek?

A local Chick-Fil-A operator in Miami, Justin Lindsey, faced numerous challenges in February 2022. High levels of employee burnout, turnover, and inconsistent schedules plagued the local chain restaurant. Several employees were working 70-hour weeks. It’s clear that the schedule was reducing productivity and interrupting their work-life balance. His solution? The 3-day workweek. By reducing the workweek for all employees and allowing them extended time off, he found that many workers were able to reduce burnout. Manager retention skyrocketed to 100%, employee retention improved, and the location received a flood of work applications. Lindsey’s chain is on track to generate $17 million in revenue, which is above average. So, a 3-day workweek may be a viable option. But how does it work?

How many hours are in a 3-day workweek?

In the case of Chick-Fil-A, employees were segmented into “pods” that would work 3 consecutive days. Each workday would consist of 13-14 hours. And while that’s a lot of work hours for a single day, employees reduced their 70-hour weeks to a regular 40-hour schedule. It’s important to note that this setup is entirely voluntary, and not every employee opted into the program. Working for 13-14 hours straight isn’t for everyone, and it’s not a schedule that should be forced onto employees. And while 13-hour days are normal for full-time employees, the work hours are much shorter for part-timers. For example, a part-time employee working a 3-day workweek may only work 8 or 9 hours a day, or 27 hours a week. At Tyson Foods, employees work 9-hour shifts 3 days a week but are still paid for additional hours to qualify for benefits. The gains in productivity and safety, according to the company, are well worth the cost. Ultimately, you’ll want to pinpoint a structure that works best for your organization.

Should you implement a 3-day workweek at your company?

There are many potential benefits of shortening the workweek, including:
  1. Reduced burnout — Workers with a 4-day weekend have the time and flexibility to unwind. This allows them to be more productive in the office.
  2. Higher retention — Staff who choose longer hours can free up scheduling conflicts with other employees, make schedules more predictable, and increase overall productivity. Improved workflows on the floor can also translate into fewer management challenges, ensuring that retention improves across the board.
  3. Improved productivity — Humans struggle with multi-tasking and changing mental modes. A consecutive, 3-day workweek ensures that employees stay in the work headspace while at work. And when they’re off duty, they are fully gone from the office. This use of time-blocking improves productivity without sacrificing employee well-being.
  4. Better work-life balance — With shorter workweeks, employees have the time to do what they want, be it travel, spending time with family, or improving their skills. They may even choose to set up a side hustle.
  5. Fewer childcare costs — A parent working 3 days a week may only need to invest in 1 or 2 days of childcare, compared to 4 or 5. This can turn into significant savings for workers and a great incentive to join a shorter workweek program.
  6. Less commuting time — Another byproduct of working fewer days is less time spent commuting. Again, this can translate into time and cost savings for employees.

Long work days must be part of a voluntary program

That said, such long work days must be part of a voluntary program. Many individuals may not have the ability or drive to work long hours.
You will also need to take time to structure breaks and check in on staff on a weekly or monthly basis to ensure that their well-being hasn’t been negatively impacted.
And every schedule type has its own set of disadvantages. A 3-day workweek translates into longer hours, which in some cases, can reduce efficiency and even safety. You will also need to take time to structure breaks and check in on staff on a weekly or monthly basis to ensure that their well-being hasn’t been negatively impacted. But if such a short schedule looks too complicated to implement, there’s always the alternative: The 4-day workweek.

3-day vs 4-day workweek: What do workers prefer?

While working 3 days a week has its benefits, many workers still prefer the 4-day workweek. In fact, 92% of U.S.-based employees said they prefer this model. Most workers have stated that they can complete their work in that reduced time frame, with only 1 out of 4 employees saying they would need to work longer hours. Of course, implementing a 4-day workweek offers a few other benefits. Since it’s less intensive than a 3-day schedule, it’s more accessible to workers with varying abilities and needs. In addition, the slightly longer weekend is enough to reduce burnout and stress levels for many employees. Coupling a 4-day workweek with flexible scheduling or remote work could be an attractive offer for many benefits and recruitment packages. In 2022, 70% of employees said they found flexible work benefits important, and 97% of workers didn’t want to return to the office full-time post-pandemic. For small businesses and HR managers looking for a competitive edge for recruiting, the 4-day workweek could be the ideal solution for reducing turnover. And, if you’re really an ambitious organization, a voluntary 3-day workweek program could take that initiative to the next level.

More on how to improve your retention rate

At its center, high retention rates hinge on people-first approaches to HR. Three-day workweeks have been successful with employers who work together with their employees to find a solution to common challenges. Burnout, low productivity, and high turnover are all expensive and serious issues that impede growth and lower morale. Yet, whether it’s with long weekends or additional benefits, Human Resources and People Operations are the starting points for change. The question is, how can you pinpoint bottlenecks and inefficient systems in your business? People analytics provides a way for employers to get to the root of the problem with employee turnover. And it’s not always long hours. It could be a toxic workplace, outdated processes and technology, or a lack of career progression options. To learn more about how you can get started with people analytics, check out our in-depth guide with 6 company use cases for the full picture.

Inspirational stories and on-the-ground perspectives shaping the future of work.

Start here

On-demand sessions

Start here

Is a PEO right for you? Take our assessment.

Start here
Additional Articles
ESAC Accreditation
We comply with all ESAC standards and maintain ESAC accreditation since 1995.
Certified PEO
A TriNet subsidiary is classified as a Certified Professional Employer Organization by the IRS.5.