4-day work weeks in manufacturing and distribution: Benefits, drawbacks & factors to consider

September 29, 2022 Christina DeBusk

A food manufacturing plant

In June, 70 British companies started a 6-month trial in which employees’ work weeks were shortened to just four days. In total, more than 3,300 workers will take part in this pilot program designed to analyze the effects of 4-day work weeks in real businesses.

Certainly, this type of arrangement would likely impact different industries in different ways. What would a 4-day work week look like in manufacturing and distribution? It could have both pros and cons. 

Potential benefits of a shorter work week

The most obvious benefit of a shorter work week is that it would give employees more time off. This would enable them to handle more of their obligations on their off-work days, reducing their need to call in or schedule time away. This equates to fewer daily worker shortages as more people should be able to report for their shifts.  

A 4-day work week would also provide employees greater work-life balance while giving them more of an opportunity to recharge. This could lead to productivity gains as a 2022 study conducted by The Hartford reports that 63% of workers say that their ability to be productive at work suffers when they feel burnt out.

Drawbacks of a 4-day-per-week schedule

Although it may sound nice to work just four days each week, research has found that people following this schedule tended to have higher levels of stress. One potential explanation for this is that you still need to get the same amount of work done, and you have less time to do it. This places more pressure on the employee to perform at higher levels.

Another potential drawback of a 4-day work week in manufacturing and distribution specifically is that it will likely require the hiring of more people. It is common for manufacturing facilities to run 24 hours a day, and distribution companies are also known for operating around the clock.

If employees are only working four days, you will need to bring on more people to cover the gap. 
This could be problematic, especially amidst the worker shortage that currently exists. It would also lead to increased costs related to hiring and training, both to get the workforce numbers up initially and when replacing employees who quit, retire or are otherwise unable to work.

Factors to consider before trying a 4-day work week

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for the “perfect” work week in any industry. Every business has its differences, requiring different workplace solutions. If you’re considering trying a 4-day work week at your manufacturing or distribution company, here are some factors to consider first:

  • What your employee schedule would look like in terms of days and hours
  • How many hours each employee would work daily (the U.K. study involved employees working either 32 or 35 hours per week)
  • How many employees you would need to execute this type of schedule without any interruptions to your operations
  • Costs related to hiring and training any new staff
  • How you would measure each employee’s productivity to ensure that productivity doesn’t fall
  • How you would measure whether the 4-day work weeks are working for your business (or if they aren’t)

Should you decide to make the switch and, as a result, need more staff, we are here to help. Whether transitioning to a 4-day work week means that you need 5 new employees or more than 500, we offer a variety of staffing solutions that enable you to do this with less stress and fewer interruptions to your business. Contact our team today to learn more about our unique solutions.

About the Author

Christina M. DeBusk creates small business content for a variety of publications, some of which include Businessing Magazine, Compendent, Chiropractic Economics, and more. She is also the author behind the column, "The Successful Solopreneur.

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