9 Investigates: The pros and cons of a 4-day workweek

CHARLOTTE — The pandemic changed the way many of us work. Some people are still working remotely or some sort of combination, and balancing time between work and life much more differently than before.

Ken Mills is the CEO of Epic IO, a company headquartered in Fort Mill. He told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke that he was looking for ways to recruit and retain the best talent, so the company switched to a modified four-day workweek where employees get every other Friday off.

According to Mills, the move has been good for the employer, not just the employee.

“By giving them a dedicated time to take time off and recharge, we feel like we’re going to get back more of actual time in their workweek and more productivity in a workweek, and actually improve our productivity versus actually taking a hit to our productivity,” he said.

He told Stoogenke that he had to make some investments on his end, however. “We kind of expected people to just naturally be thrilled and figure it out, but we’ve actually had to coach people and create management strategies and encourage people to make sure they actually turn off their work phone and their email during that day and truly get that time back,” he said.

He’s also had to hire more people in general and to fill gaps when certain employees are off, but he said it should pay for itself in productivity.

Becky Drozdz is with Catapult, formerly The Employers Association. She said most companies could go to four-day workweeks if they wanted to.

“Pretty much everybody says, ‘Sign me up.’ People want it,” she told Stoogenke. “A lot of people hear Friday off … That doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. Perhaps you have an organization where you have to be there, you have to have people customer facing. Maybe you have a rotation: somebody gets Tuesday, somebody gets Wednesday. It’s not the whole business shuts down on Friday.”

She said employees can pitch the idea without looking like they’re just trying to get more time off, too.

“If you approach it with data and you, as an employee, go in and say ‘here’s what my productivity standard is. Here’s when I can contribute. Here’s how I can achieve those goals during this compressed workweek.’ I think you then have something to talk about,” she said.

American news outlets have given a lot of attention to this study recently. In the study, Iceland tested shorter workweeks for a wide range of workplaces, from offices to hospitals. Researchers found groundbreaking evidence in favor of working time reduction. They found productivity remained the same or even improved in many cases, so much so that roughly 86% of Iceland’s workers now have shorter hours or at least the option.

Both Drozdz and Mills also pointed out that if employers go this route, they should be sure to make all the legal adjustments such as the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. Both involve measuring workdays, time off and hours carefully.

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