Work Less, Achieve More?  The Four-Day Workweek Debate.

2nd April 2024

Special Boardroom contributor Dr Ole Petter Anfinsen, explores the sustainability of the four-day work week.

The call for working less has put enormous pressure on today’s organisations. What happened to work ethics, morals, and self-discipline? The global lockdown has highlighted numerous tensions, among which the concept of the four-day workweek has become a particularly heated topic. Currently, it garners significant attention from both researchers and practitioners. While it has received support from various quarters, there are also many skeptics. These skeptics doubt the feasibility of the four-day workweek for four main reasons, as listed below:

1 – The organisation

From an organisational perspective, if employees were to suddenly flag that they could bring down the work they had been doing for years from five days to four days, one could argue – fine, but then their role should be reduced to 80%. To regain 100%, they would need to prove an increase in both output and performance. This would also imply that the same employee has been overpaid for years – being paid for five days’ work – while the work was merely worth four days. 

2 – The human

Human behaviour is somewhat predictable, and by exploring behavioural patterns two distinct themes emerge. 

Number one: Most people tend to prefer the path of least resistance, often seeking shortcuts to achieve their goals, regardless of the associated risks. Number two: Behavioural patterns rarely change, and even though they are full of good intentions, people most often bring bad habits forward. 

Reflecting on history, there was a period when a six-day workweek was the norm, and it was believed that the same amount of work could be accomplished in five days by enhancing effectiveness. Years later, we find ourselves making a similar argument for the adoption of a four-day workweek. While this approach may demonstrate benefits in the short term, long-term behavioural patterns are likely to prevail, leading to the reemergence of the same inefficiencies observed in the past. After all, we are humans, not machines, and our productivity and work habits are subject to our inherent human nature.

3 – Lack of connection 

With hybrid working, we’ve seen an increasing lack of connection, engagement, and psychological well-being. Should our work presence be further reduced, this trend could likely exacerbate existing challenges, moving us from a bad situation to an even worse one. 

Ultimately this will jeopardise more than productivity and create situations some of us won’t be able to bounce back from. It will put new pressure on our economy and healthcare system, where more and more people will end up on social benefits, unable to provide for themselves. 

4 – Sliced bread for everyone 

The four-day workweek is being sold as the best thing since sliced bread, for everyone, but it can’t be applied to everyone. Some professions will have to maintain a five-day workweek, which means we are in danger of creating a new class system within the workforce: those who can, and those who cannot. 

However, the notion of the four-day workweek has taken root in society and seems to be something many people would like to push forward. So, what should we do? 

How to make it work?

It is not merely doom and gloom, but we need to create a foundation for change. 

Firstly, we need to acknowledge the complexity of human behaviour and the mechanisms and tools required to cope and develop with change – and acquire the skills to thrive with such a transformation. Just as with a car, we cannot simply remove a wheel and expect it to function with three, nor can we change the wheels and anticipate the car maintaining racing speed. Instead, improvements must be made to the engine to ensure it is suited for a new purpose and can adapt to environmental changes.

The same goes for us as humans, and if we would like to change, routines, patterns, or cognitive behaviour, we need to work on our capabilities, skills, and mindset. We can’t just make external changes and expect us to continue with increased speed – without the tools to sustain this new pace. Hence, we need to look at our ability to adapt, and how we can make this work for us by developing resilience, self-discipline, and self-management, as discussed in my previous articles. 

This means we can train ourselves to become more effective, increase productivity and – at some point – potentially reduce the number of working days. But we can’t do this overnight. We need to create a solid foundation to cope – otherwise bad habits are bound to repeat themselves. 


Anfinsen, O. P., 2023. Burnout – The Executive Burnover (Part I). Boardroom

Anfinsen, O. P., 2023. Burnout – The Executive Burnover (Part II). Boardroom

Anfinsen, O. P., 2023. Driving Success Through Self-Management. Boardroom

Anfinsen, O. P., 2023. Navigating the 21st Century: Building Resilience for Success. Boardroom 

Anfinsen, O. P. 2023. The Importance of Adaptability in Fortifying Performance. Boardroom

Anfinsen, O. P., 202four. Hybrid Working? That is the Question.. Boardroom Magazine

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