We've abolished the 6-day workweek, fought for a national minimum wage, and now the next major labor movement is upon us: the campaign for a 4-day workweek.
As demands for flexible working conditions and healthier work-life balances reach a fever pitch, ditching the 40-hour workweek has proven to be a wildly popular concept among employees. And after the landslide success of multiple global trials, many business owners are warming to the idea too – with major names like Microsoft and Amazon recently rolling out compressed hours.
But even if you believe that the 5-day workweek is outdated, your employer might not agree. In these cases, putting your case forward and educating your boss about the benefits might help tip the scales in your, and your workforces, favor. Not sure where to start? Learn how to ask for an extra day off in seven simple steps.
How to Ask for a 4-Day Workweek
Scrapping the 5-day workweek requires a convincing case. Follow these steps when asking your boss for a 4-day workweek:
1. Make Sure a 4-Day Workweek is Right for Your Company
Unfortunately, not every business will be able to implement a four-day week. So before you even consider putting your case forward you need to make sure scrapping a working day is plausible for your company.
While multiple trials have found that reducing hours consistently makes employees more productive, companies that manage intense workloads may struggle with tighter time constraints. For example, in the UK's largest four-day weekday pilot, engineering and industrial supplies company Allcap was forced to abandon the trial early after staff started becoming overworked.
“As opposed to 10 normal workdays, we found that employees would have nine extreme ones – once they got to their scheduled day off they were exhausted.” Allcap's CEO tells the BBC.
Businesses in industries that provide round-the-clock coverage, like healthcare and transport will struggle to make the change too. This can also extend to hospitality businesses operating on traditional service schedules, like retail stores, restaurants, and hotels.
2. Build Your Case, and Lead With Facts
If you think your company has the potential to embrace a four-day workweek, you're off to a good start – now it's time to make your case.
Instead of approaching your employer and simply asking for a three-day weekend, you need to put forward a convincing case. Don't be shy to mention how working reduced hours can benefit employees – including the impact it can have on job satisfaction, physical health, and burnout – but try and pivot the case around the advantages it can bring to the company as a whole.
For example, mention the impact working a four-day week can have on employee retention, productivity rates, cost reduction, and worker engagement. And don't be vague. Back your case up with hard evidence from previous success stories. To make your case more convincing, find businesses with a similar structure to yours that have successfully pivoted to a four-day workweek and use them as a case study.
Lots of this information is publicly available, but you can also reach out to company employees directly to enquire about how the switch benefited them.
3. Make the Case Personal To Your Business
In order for your campaign to be effective, you need to address real issues your business is grappling with, and explain how they could be solved – or at least addressed – with the flexible work arrangement.
For example, if your business struggles to consistently meet its targets, lead with real-life examples of how businesses increased productivity levels during and after the four-day pilot. Or, if your company has a high turnover rate, center your case around the positive impact the arrangement can have on recruiting and retaining top talent.
It's important to touch on practical issues too. There are lots of reasons why an employer might be hesitant to introduce the working model, including the nature of your industry, the hours you need to operate, and the size of your current workload. Before heading into the meeting, try and pre-empt these concerns and devise an answer for them ahead of time.
4. Explain How a 4-Day Workweek Could be Implemented
A four-day workweek will look slightly different for each business. After you've made your argument clear, you should tell your manager which form you think it could take for your company.
Clarify the different types of four-day models, including the “normal days” version where employees work four eight-hour days, the “shorter days” version where employees work five, six-hour days, and the “longer days” version where employees work four ten-hour days – shortening their workweek without trimming down on hours.
If your company isn't able to shut down its operations during regular business hours, briefly explain how this can be achieved through alternating shift patterns. Breach the topic of salary reductions too. Most companies that have converted to a four-day week have kept employee salaries the same. However, if this is in no way an option for your employer, you can bring up the option of a salary reduction and mention whether you think the proposal would be accepted by your team.
Critically, when explaining how a four-day week could be implemented, point out what parts of your business could change, and which would remain the same. This will help your manager see it in practical terms, and understand what the adjustment would look like in reality.
For more tips on how to action the changes, read our guide on implementing a 4-day workweek.
5. Suggest a Trial Period
Kickstarting a four-day workweek without trialing it beforehand would be foolish. So, instead of asking your boss to trust you blindly, request a trial period where you're able to test out the success of the new arrangement before making any long-term commitments.
When planning your trial, it's important to establish which metrics will be used to assess the success of the trial. For example, are you going to focus on productivity rates, employee satisfaction, cost reduction, profits, cases of burnout, or a mixture of the above?
If your manager is open to the idea, you could also address the practicalities of launching a trial by discussing which time of the year would be best for your company, how long it would be, what support is available in your state, and how you would go about joining the pilot program.
6. Rejected? Consider Asking For a Personal 4-day Workweek
If your case was rejected, try not to be disheartened. Cutting a day off a workweek isn't feasible for every type of business, and if you're serious about carving out a healthier work-life balance there will always be other options to explore.
For example, while your boss may not be on board with a company-wide four-day workweek, there's always scope to put your case forward individually. In this instance, you may have to make some type of sacrifice to ensure you don't get an unfair privilege over other employees. For example, you could suggest keeping up your current hours by working four ten-hour days or cutting down a day in exchange for a salary sacrifice.
7. Explore Other Options
If your employer is completely closed to rolling out any form of a 4-day workweek and you can't come to some kind of compromise – it might be time to look elsewhere.
Companies that offer this working privilege are still majorly in the minority, but thanks to the success of multiple trials, the concept is gaining popularity at a rapid speed. Workplaces that offer this perk will likely better reflect your values and have a more favorable company culture too, making the employment pivot even more worth it.
Remember that dropping a working day isn't simply an excuse to slack off though, as most companies are looking to maintain or increase levels of productivity despite fewer hours being worked.
If you're curious about what options could be awaiting you, check out our regularly updated guide to companies currently offering a 4-day workweek.