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Employee Experience

The numbers behind four-day work weeks and paid mental health days

We’re living through a historic shift in the way people work. Physical and digital workplaces have become one, and many companies are throwing out the old playbook and testing new ideas to enhance employee satisfaction, well-being and productivity, including shorter work weeks and paid mental health days. 

With 58% of employees saying their job is the main source of their mental health challenges, there is no one solution for every worker in every industry. Instead, leaders are tasked with listening to really understand what employees are experiencing and then building flexible policies to fit the diverse and unique needs of a workforce. 

Qualtrics asked more than 1,000 full-time employees about the pros and cons of four-day work weeks and paid mental health days. We found that most employees say a four-day work week and paid days off would improve their mental health. But the majority also acknowledge tradeoffs, including potentially having to work longer hours to make up missed work. Fifty-five percent of employees say a four-day work week would likely frustrate customers. 

When asked to choose between two options, 50% of employees said they’d prefer increased flexibility to work when they want, compared to 47% who said they would rather have a four-day work week — supporting other Qualtrics research that shows employees prioritize flexibility and control. 

Employee priorities: work-life balance and mental health 

Many employees report that the pandemic caused them to consider their priorities, and they want to make sure their jobs allow for flexibility and control. Those desires are driving the popularity of a shorter week. 

  • 92% of employees would support their employer implementing a four-day work week
    • 88% say it would improve their work-life balance
    • 79% say it would improve their mental health
    • 82% say it would make them more productive
  • A four-day work week could help with retention and recruitment
    • 81% say a four-day work week would make the feel more loyal to their employer
    • 82% say a four-day work week would help their company recruit talent

Many fear four-day work weeks could hurt revenue and relationships with customers

Employees are split when it comes to how a shorter work week would impact sales, revenue and relationships with customers.

  • 46% say a four-day work week would have a negative impact on sales and revenue vs. 47% who say it wouldn’t
  • 55% say a four-day work week would frustrate customers vs. 41% who say it wouldn’t
  • 38% say a four-day work week would encourage employees to slack off vs. 60% who say it wouldn’t
  • Managers and senior leaders are the most worried:
    • 40% of individual contributors say there would be a negative impact on sales and revenue vs. 46% of managers and 53% of senior leaders
    • 29% of individual contributors say employees would slack off vs. 40% of managers and 48% of senior leaders

Employees are willing to consider tradeoffs

Many employees are willing to consider tradeoffs, like working longer hours on workdays or taking a pay cut, in order to have recurring three-day weekends.

  • Most employees say they would have to work longer hours
    • 74% say they could complete the same amount of work in four days
    • 72% say a four-day work week would mean they’d have to work longer hours on workdays
  • 37% of employees would be willing to take a 5% pay cut or more in exchange for a four-day work week
    • Just 8% of employees would be willing to take a 20% pay cut or more

Employees say paid mental health days would reduce burnout

Paid mental health days are another benefit employers are increasingly offering as an antidote to burnout. Most employees are in favor of this benefit and say it’s more than a gimmick — it’s a long-term solution to ensuring good mental health among employees.

  • 92% of employees want their employer to implement paid mental health days
  • 95% say paid mental health days are a long-term solution to ensuring good mental health among employees
  • Employees say paid mental health days will help with burnout and encourage them to stay at a company:
    • 89% say paid mental health days would help them recharge and be more productive
    • 87% say paid mental health days would reduce burnout and improve mental health
    • 86% say paid mental health days would help their company recruit talent
    • 41% say a paid company-wide mental health day would influence them to stay at a company longer
    • 39% say a paid company-wide mental health week would influence them to stay at a company longer

Paid mental health days may not benefit everyone

Although employees are very supportive of paid mental health days, they aren’t certain they would benefit everyone.

  • 63% say some employees would have to continue working, even on paid mental health days
  • 49% say paid mental health days would mean they’d have to work longer hours to catch up on work
  • 38% say paid mental health days would create more stress for them

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Learn more about Employee Experience

Methodology

This study was fielded between Jan. 10 and Jan. 12, 2022. Respondents were selected from a randomized panel and considered eligible if they live in the United States, are at least 18 years of age and are employed full-time. The total number of respondents was 1,021. Respondents who did not pass quality standards were removed.

Qualtrics // Experience Management

Qualtrics is the technology platform that organizations use to collect, manage, and act on experience data, also called X-data™. The Qualtrics XM Platform™ is a system of action, used by teams, departments, and entire organizations to manage the four core experiences of business—customer, product, employee, and brand—on one platform.

Over 12,000 enterprises worldwide, including more than 75 percent of the Fortune 100 and 99 of the top 100 U.S. business schools, rely on Qualtrics to consistently build products that people love, create more loyal customers, develop a phenomenal employee culture, and build iconic brands.

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