Is the 3-Day Workweek Coming?

March 19, 2024・6 mins read
Is the 3-Day Workweek Coming?

Original article from 12/2/22, updated 3/19/24.

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 suggest that it could be an option for some businesses. For example, 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 time off days when it comes to benefits packages. A 4-day weekend is certainly an attractive offer for many millennial and gen z employees. While it may seem counterintuitive to condense a 40-hour week into such a short time frame, some workers may prefer it. Of course, the main question many businesses have is whether such a short workweek is even possible or plausible.

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.
  5. Potential for lower childcare costs — A parent working 3 days a week may need to invest in fewer days of childcare. 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.

Be aware of state overtime and other wage and hour laws. In some states, overtime starts accruing after a non-exempt employee works 8 hours in a day, and not just after 40 hours in a week. And that overtime rate isn’t always time and half; in California, an hours worked in excess of 12 in a day must be paid at double the regular rate of pay. In those states as well as others, additional rest and lunch breaks will be necessary in a 13-hour day, which will require additional supervision of non-exempt employees to make sure those breaks are provided. For these reasons as well as other state wage and hour laws, a 3-day workweek is best limited to exempt 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.

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