A Four-Day Future?

What Job Postings Tell Us About Shortened Workweeks

Published on Mar 1, 2024

Written by Layla O'Kane

illustration of data showing a calendar with a four-day workweek

In the US, ways-of-working conversations over the last few months (and even years) have been largely centered on remote work, return-to-office mandates, and flexible work schedules. These conversations test the assumption that we all have to work in the same place or for the same hours to be productive. But I haven’t seen many people testing another assumption about the way our current work world operates: that the five-day workweek should be the standard. 

This is in contrast to the UK, where researchers conducted a nationwide four-day workweek experiment beginning in 2022. Four-day workweek policies center around working the equivalent of four days per week (or approximately 32 hours) while keeping the same pay and the same expectations of productivity.  Practices vary based on what works for employers. For some, this means everyone gets Fridays off. For others, everyone gets one day off a week but it rotates to ensure the company has coverage for all five days. Some employees choose to work two half days, or work all five days but with reduced hours. Recent research from the UK experiment shows that most employers who participated in the trial have made the policy permanent. These policies help workers manage their schedules, but also help employers attract candidates. But what is adoption looking like for employers actually shifting to a four-day workweek? 

We looked at Lightcast job postings data to find which job postings offered four day workweeks, and made sure to eliminate postings that advertised things like “four-day workweek from home” (which is really a five-day workweek, four at home and one presumably in office). The data show that while shares are still low, there has been significant growth in job postings advertising four-day workweeks in both the US and the UK: shares have increased in the last five years by over 50% in the US and over 100% in the UK. 

In the US, by far the highest proportion of four-day workweek postings are posted by Amazon, with almost 50,000 postings offering a four-day workweek in 2023. This perk is primarily offered for Packager, Laborer / Warehouse Worker, and Postal Service / Mailroom Worker roles.

However, it isn’t just roles in logistics that are offering four-day workweeks. Roles that lend themselves well to confined schedules, like Cable Technician/ Installer, are also relying on four-day workweeks to attract candidates. At the same time, higher wage work in dentistry and veterinary settings also tend to offer four-day workweeks in the US. These jobs are ones that are notorious for their training requirements, so offering a four-day workweek can be a way to incentivize students to train into these jobs with the eventual flexibility as a benefit.

In fields like logistics and healthcare, which operate 24 hours a day, a standard office worker’s schedule that runs from 9:00 to 5:00 on weekdays is unsustainable. To adapt, those workers have traditionally been offered shorter workweeks with longer shifts, like three days working twelve-hour shifts or four days working ten hours. I have a colleague whose husband works in manufacturing, and he was offered a choice of a five-day, eight-hour workweek and a “4/10” schedule. He chose the 4/10 schedule and saw it as a huge benefit to reduce his commute time, be more productive with his teams, and enjoy three-day weekends. 

But much of the shift we’re currently seeing is about cutting the hours in a week, not rearranging them: to quote one South African study, “The experiment uses a 100-80-100 model: workers receive 100% of the pay for working 80% of the time and still delivering 100% of their usual output."

We also took a look at which roles offer four-day workweeks in the UK to see where employers might be able to add this benefit of flexibility in the US in future. There were many similarities between the two countries, with veterinarian and dental roles also frequently offering a four-day workweek in the UK. In contrast, jobs like Landscaping / Grounds Supervisor, Speech Language Pathologist, and manufacturing roles such as CNC Operator and Manufacturing Machine Operator were substantially more likely to offer a four-day workweek in the UK relative to the US. 

As the US continues to face labor shortages and the job market remains tight, shifting to a four-day workweek might mean that employers can attract and retain talent above their competitors—potentially even with a boost to productivity. In general, studies on four-day workweeks have shown that it works well for both employers and employees, with benefits like increased job satisfaction and reduced stress

It took decades of striking and substantial movement in labor laws for the five-day 40-hour workweek to become the entrenched norm. Given current pressures on labor supply, I don’t think we’ll need as much from the labor movement for four-day workweeks to become more widespread. As return-to-office wars die down and workplaces adjust around new working norms, I expect we’ll see more employers realize that the four-day workweek could help alleviate some of their talent woes.

(Special thanks to Julia Nitschke and Cal McKeever for their help with the data that contributed meaningfully to this article)