The Pros and Cons of a Four-Day Week (Chubby Ankles Aside)

Lisa Ardill

Content Editor at Workvivo

2 Nov 2022

If you put it to Ross Gellar, he’d probably tell you the five-day week simply ‘isn’t Rachem’. Thankfully, the real-life arguments – that the four-day week can boost productivity but also increase stress – are much more articulate.

There are two types of people: those who make lists and those who don’t. If you fall into the former category, jotting down groceries you need to get, movies you need to watch, the list of resolutions that you’ll never look at again – then you’ll understand the undeniable pull of a pros and cons comparison. It’s what landed Ross Gellar in trouble when he couldn’t decide between the two women in his life, Rachel and Julie.

“What the hell’s a Rachem? Is that some paleontology term that I wouldn’t know about because I’m just a waitress?”

Rachel Green

But despite Ross’s unfortunate mistake, pros and cons lists are still a useful way of learning more about a topic and understanding how it might affect your particular circumstances. In this Forbes article, for example, business leaders argue the upsides and downsides of a four-day work week.

Tammy Polk, a Chief HR Officer whose organization previously completed a trial of the four-day week, said the advantages included greater flexibility, productivity, and happiness. Tammy said the shorter week was a “win-win situation”; output increased and employees were able to strike a better work-life balance. 

But there were downsides too; employee stress levels increased, which Tammy says can be caused by any change in the workplace, positive or negative. (Unlike Ross’s list, there was no mention of chubby ankles.)

15Five’s Chief Culture Officer Shane Metcalf offered four-day week alternatives in the article, such as No Meeting Thursdays and Best-Self Time Fridays, where employees can spend a day each week on personal development and self-care.

The four-day week should be four days (we can’t believe we have to say it, either)

The jury is out on whether or not Rachel is ditzy and (a little) spoiled. But research points to a more solid conclusion around the four-day week: not trying to fit five days’ worth of work into four may be the answer to the biggest con listed by Tammy: stress.

“We were on a break!”

Ross to Rachel The work-life balance mantra we all need

Instead, embracing the four-day week for what it really is – four days of work rather than five days smushed into four – looks like the working world’s best foot forward. At the very least, it’s a better counter-argument than “she’s not Rachem”.

If you’re feeling inspired to write your own pros and cons list, keep a keen eye on your spelling. And maybe don’t recruit Joey Tribbiani and Chandler Bing to help.

This article was originally a thumbstopper in Vivowire, our expertly curated weekly newsletterSign up to get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox!