The History of the 4-Day Work Week
In recent years, the idea of a 4-day work week has been gaining momentum. Especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, workers and employers have become increasingly aware of workplace flexibility and employee wellbeing. At Beam Healthcare, we were intrigued by the idea of making this shift for our own employees to promote healthier and happier teams. In our consideration process, we began by looking at the history of the 5-day work week.
After the industrial revolution, employees worked as many as 100 hours per week. Factories needed to be tended to all of the time, and a regular work day ranged from 10-16 hours with only 1 day off per week. On September 25, 1926, Ford Motor Company became one of the first significant companies to adopt a 5-day, 40-hour work week, with no reduction in pay.
Around one decade later, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, establishing a maximum work week of 44 hours. Two years later, Congress amended the Fair Labor Standards Act, limiting the work week to 40 hours. Since then, a 5-day, 40-hour work week has become a standard practice in various industries across the world.
The 5-day work week was created with good intentions, but we believe that there hasn’t been much data-driven evolution of it since that time.
Article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that, “Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.” Ford Motor Company changed their work policy under the belief that “Every man needs more than one day a week for rest and recreation…” The solution was the 5-day work week, but in our current work culture, employees’ time for rest and recreation is slowly diminishing.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “Sunday night is the new Monday morning.” Sunday is often used to prepare for another productive work week ahead, ultimately leading to employee burnout. In a LinkedIn survey of over 1,000 working adults, 80% said they experienced a surge in work-related stress on Sunday nights. With employees’ time and mental energy consumed by work-related matters on Sundays, that leaves them with only 1 full day to truly relax, enjoy time with loved ones, and pursue their hobbies.
Putting our Team First
At Beam Healthcare, we recognize that the three most valuable assets each of our team members has are:
- Time on this planet
- Our mental and physical health
- Our loved ones
We’ve been experimenting with the 4-day work week for more than a year, and the decision was straightforward considering our values. Our ultimate goal is always to promote an environment that creates happier and healthier teams, which eventually translates to stronger teams, better products, and happier clients. Here is what we have witnessed first hand after making these changes:
- More focused use of time by team members towards their personal and department goals
- Improved quality and timeliness of deliverables
- Increased creativity and out-of-the-box thinking when employees were able to step away from the daily grind and have a day off to pursue their hobbies
- Reduction in unnecessary meetings & time wastage
- More time with their loved ones and their passions. We witnessed improved emotional intelligence and a sense of personal balance.
- Team members still decided to work an extra day at times, but this was on their terms, not because they had to.
The Financial Considerations
Before pulling the trigger on a 4-day work week, companies are often reluctant from a financial and accountability standpoint. These are aspects that we also had to consider, but in the end we noticed the following results:
- Our total financial investment per employee was the same from a salary perspective. It’s true that our employees’ per-hour rate increased, but this was overall a sensible investment for improved efficiency, quality, and the team’s wellbeing.
- Our recruitment, retention, and job satisfaction continue to improve as we invest into our employees. We witnessed this first with offering free mental healthcare, and now with a 4-day work week.
Beam Healthcare is the future of telemedicine, and we are envisioning the future of work, supporting our employee’s wellbeing and improving life-work balance. We will continue to lead the way by implementing innovative practices and reimagining our company culture to adapt to our modern world.