Want Work-Life Balance? How to Ask for a 4-Day Workweek

Apr 16, 2015 - Joe Matar
As more companies begin considering the benefits of the four-day workweek, it may be time to advocate for your own shorter workweek, too. Company-wide four-day weeks are still pretty rare, but that doesn’t mean you can’t adjust your own work schedule to take advantage of the perks. Broaching the subject can be difficult, especially if none of your coworkers have similar work schedules. Before meeting with your employer, you’ll need to create a strong and valid argument for yourself. Here are things to consider when making your case for a shorter week.

The potential benefits of a four-day week

Research shows that companies who have adopted the shorter workweek are benefiting financially. Workers tend to be more energetic and resourceful in their jobs when they have more time off. While part of this is due to the urgency employees feel to get things done in a shorter period of time, emotional benefits may also contribute to this renewed energy.   Many employees who work 40-hour, five-day weeks become overwhelmed, stressed, and exhausted. The mental toll of spending the majority of your time in an office is not only emotionally draining but also potentially physically harmful. Anxiety can lead to sleep problems, rising blood pressure, and an overall weakened immune system. An unhealthy employee is certainly not going to be a productive employee. But with a shorter workweek, people are encouraged to take the time to de-stress, refuel, and manage their emotional well-being along with their workload.

But is it really right for you?

While an extra day off sounds appealing to every employee, you need to consider carefully if a four-day workweek is right for you. Consider whether you can pull off being at work one less day each week by examining your current work schedule. Can you complete your tasks well in four days per week? Is working harder in a shorter period of time worth that extra day off? Do you have a long commute to work that you’d like to cut down? Do you have family or personal responsibilities that are a priority over work? These are questions that can help you determine if a shorter week is better for you. (Click here to tweet these questions.) If you truly believe that a four-day workweek will increase your overall quality of life and give you more energy to be productive, then it’s time to build your case and present it to your boss. Once you’re set on the benefits of a condensed work schedule, you need to pitch it like you would any other work proposal.

How to convince your boss to adjust your schedule

If your boss appreciates open communication and innovation, then you should feel comfortable to broach the topic of a shorter workweek. When making your case, it’s important to focus on how it’ll benefit your employer and the company. The best argument for the four-day workweek is that it increases workers productivity. In his popular New York Times article, Jason Fried, co-founder of the software company Basecamp, extols the benefits of shorter workweeks by stressing how “constraining time encourages quality time.” It’s a simple but vital argument to convey to your boss: if you only have four days to get done what you would usually have five days to finish, then you’ll use your time more effectively and wisely in the office. Strengthen your argument by assuring your employer that an extra day off will make you more efficient. If you need the extra day for health or personal reasons, tell your boss that you’ll have more energy to work harder during the rest of the week. If you want to work from home, let him or her know that you’ll remain productive and reachable on that fifth day. Part-time employment is on the rise, so your boss may actually like the idea of shaving time off your schedule. If your place of work is considering switching over to the shorter week collectively, then the company will save a significant amount of money while becoming more energy efficient.

Take a shorter week for a test drive

Take initiative by making a sample schedule to show your employer how you’ll manage a condensed week. Estimate your daily work schedule by determining if you’ll be working eight or 10 hours each day. Presenting a mock schedule to your boss will let him or her know that you’re serious about your proposal. By creating a sample schedule and offering articles and studies that promote the benefits of a condensed workweek, you’ll have a stronger case to present. When you meet with your employer to state your case, remember to emphasize why a shorter week will make you a better employee and be more profitable for the company. Be assertive and composed while making your case, but also be prepared for the possibility of being declined. While many startups, tech companies, and production or design firms are adopting shorter workweeks, the majority of American corporations are not sold on the idea yet. You may just need to be patient and wait for it to gain popularity in our economy. Have you started a conversation about having a four-day workweek at your office? Let us know how it’s going! Javaher Nooryani is a writer and editor based in Denver, CO. As a former private tutor and college prep advisor, Javaher is passionate about higher education and is happy to share her knowledge on CollegeFocus, a website that helps students deal with the challenges of college.