4 tips to implement the 4-day work week approach in Ireland

Alice Vigneron

In recent years, more companies have experimented with a revolutionary approach to work: the four-day workweek. This alternative work schedule, which involves working fewer hours over a shorter period of time, has generated a lot of interest in the media and among professionals.

In 2022, more than 20 countries ran test cases to explore the approach. Ireland is among those countries that actively test four-day work weeks. In March 2022, 54% of 1500 Irish professionals believed a four-day work week would be normal within 5 years (1). Today, about 4% of Irish companies have already adopted the approach permanently (2).

Featuring ORS, a leading multidisciplinary building consultancy, Ireland's Best Workplace™️ for five years and its Head of Marketing and Employee Experience, Rachel Murray, we will discuss the benefits, challenges and provide 4 tips for successfully implementing the 4-day workweek.

What is the 4-day work week approach?

A four-day work week is a schedule in which an employee works 4 days per week instead of 5 days. In general, the four-day work week approach impacts the days of work and total hours with benefits and pay remaining the same. In other words, employees work 32 hours per week instead of 40 hours.

The 4-day work week can be confused with a compressed work week. Thus, each day of work is longer in order to compensate for the lost day.

Depending on your goals and metrics, this approach can be organised in different ways. The decision between working four eight-hour days or reducing hours to five days depends on your company's needs and employees' preferences. Weekends are traditionally taken off, but other factors, such as workload and availability, should also be considered.

The most important thing to ORS is providing a workplace that provides for people's needs. "We understand that our team need varying levels of flexibility based on their personal needs and we try to accommodate this as it is vital to employee retention."

"At ORS, we prioritise creating a supportive workplace that meets our team's diverse needs. We understand that flexibility is crucial for employee retention and strive to provide work-life balance through our hybrid working and 4-day work week."

The 4-day work week approach was introduced by ORS in 2020 as an option for employees. Rachel Murray, Head of Marketing and Employee Experience at ORS explains: "At a management level, we are always trying to be both innovative and ahead of the curve. Consistently seeking feedback from our team and incorporating it into our operational model while maintaining continuous growth."

ORS management has a proven track record of listening to their employees and building an environment where employees have an active role in making decisions. According to their Trust Index Employee Survey©️ results, 93% of ORS employees who responded to the survey agreed "Management genuinely seeks and responds to suggestions and ideas." 88% of ORS employees who responded to the survey agreed to the following statement "Management involves people in decisions that affect their jobs or work environment."


Benefits of the 4-day work week approach

"There is no correlation between working longer hours and greater productivity. The evidence of both international academic research and business case studies in recent years would suggest the opposite."

Four Day Week Ireland (3).

They are numerous benefits of implementing a 4-day work week approach. Some companies have adopted this schedule as a way to improve work-life balance, increase employee satisfaction and productivity and increase employee retention.

Flexibility is one of the main factors that employees value at ORS. Employees at ORS typically work a five-day week, though they have the option of switching to a 4-day working week at any time if they feel the need for it.

Rachel Murray explains: "Even for people who don't take the 4-day working week they know that it is an option available to them. It helps people feel secure if something happens or their situation changes. They won't have to go through a long approval process or maybe look somewhere else."

Overall, ORS employees have a high level of commitment to their job, with a majority of them feeling that their work-life balance is respected and appreciated. 90% of ORS employees who responded to the survey agreed with the statement "People are encouraged to balance their work life and their personal life." in their organisation. 90% of ORS employees who responded to the survey agreed with the statement "People look forward to coming to work here.", according to their Trust Index Employee Survey©️ results.

According to the organisation Four Day Work Week Ireland, other important benefits implementing that approach are:

A four-day workweek approach can be beneficial financially for employees because it can reduce expenses such as commuting costs and childcare expenses, and may also lead to reduced stress and improved work-life balance, which can have a positive impact on overall health and well-being. Additionally, a shorter workweek can improve productivity and employee morale, which can ultimately benefit the financial bottom line of a company.


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Challenges of the 4-day work week approach

It's important to understand that introducing a four-day workweek might not always entail the benefits above. Some potential challenges of implementing a four-day workweek approach could include difficulty in maintaining productivity levels, increased workload on the four working days, potential strain on employee work-life balance, and potential conflicts with clients or customers who expect businesses to be open five days a week. Additionally, certain industries or job roles may not be suited for a condensed workweek schedule.

Anticipating the challenges above as well as the one specific to your business sector before applying such strategy, is vital for your organisation.


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Aim for successful implementation of a 4-day work week

Whether it is implemented as an option or permanently, it is imperative to carefully consider the potential impact on company operations and ensure that all necessary tasks and responsibilities can still be fulfilled within the revised schedule. Before implementing such a change, it is beneficial to gather employee feedback and input.

Implementing a successful 4-day workweek approach requires careful planning and communication with employees. Consider factors such as workload distribution, scheduling, and potential impacts on productivity and customer service. It may also be helpful to gather feedback from employees and track results to evaluate the effectiveness of the new approach.


Here are 4 tips to successfully implement the four-day work week approach in your organisation:

  1. Brainstorm the idea and assess its feasibility

Before considering this approach and communicating it to the whole organisation, it is worthwhile to brainstorm the idea and assess its potential business impacts. It's important that both employees and leaders are involved in this step.

ORS has a culture development committee in place to drive the Great Place to Work nine key practice areas. Through this committee and feedback from employees, it was identified that implementing a 4-day working week would benefit ORS.

Rachel Murray explains, "We saw that it was something people wanted, and we wanted to provide flexibility for those who needed it." As a result, ORS decided to offer this option as part of their approach to a more flexible work environment.

Here are a few essential questions to discuss with your organisation committee for a successful implementation:

  • Which will be the days or hours off?
  • Do we give our employees the option to choose or not?
  • What will be the impact on clients, customers and other stakeholders?
  • What will be the productivity impact?
  • What about scheduling and workload management?
  • Are there any cultural aspects, potential resistance to change to consider before moving forward with that approach?
  • What are the legal and regulatory implications, such as negotiating collective agreements and complying with employment laws?

The assessment of the approach on your operations is essential if it is to be implemented permanently in order to determine whether or not it is aligned with your business objectives.

  1. Conduct a trial run

Having assessed its feasibility, testing it out on a small group of employees can provide significant insight into its effectiveness and may help identify any potential issues it might cause in the future. If you communicate with your team and stakeholders about the proposed changes and their impacts, your employees will be better prepared to anticipate and adapt to the new working habits.

  1. Trust, support and lead by example

Employees need to clearly know what is expected of them and feel secure to ask questions if necessary. Encourage your employees to work more efficiently and streamline processes. A helpful way to adapt to the process is to lead by example. By designating your trial run team as ambassadors or through your managers this will help your employees adapt faster to change.

Last but not least, your employees know what's appropriate for them. Allowing them to have some flexibility in choosing which days they take off can help ensure all necessary work is completed. This will also ensure adequate coverage during the work week.

  1. Monitor progress

It's worthwhile to regularly track and evaluate the success of your 4-day work week approach. This can help identify areas for improvement and ensure that the revised schedule meets the needs of both the company and its employees. 

Showing that you care and give back has a very positive impact on the trust, performance and retention of your employees. It also strengthens the company's culture as a whole. How can you show you care and support them? Start by listening to them! We can help you create a customised survey for your company's needs. Talk to your employees, gather their feedback and act on it.

👉 Learn more about Pulse Surveys 👈


About Great Place to Work®

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