The concept of a four-day working week has gained momentum in recent years, with many countries considering the potential benefits of reducing the standard five-day working week. In February 2023, research was published from the UK, where 61 companies participated in a 4-day work week six-month pilot scheme. With 92% opting to continue with a 4-day week following the trial. This was the largest trial globally so far. The full results of the research are available here.

In this article, we will explore the potential impact of a four-day working week, both on society and businesses. Is it really feasible for certain industry sectors and what is the possible impact on employers in Ireland?

Is the concept of a 4-day work week gaining traction in Ireland?

Ireland has shown interest in this idea, with some companies already implementing this new work structure under a small trial in 2022. The pilot scheme involved just 12 companies, but it was reportedly a success for many of those involved. In June 2021, Leo Varadkar announced, during his tenure as the Minister for Enterprise, that up to €150,000 would be made available to support this research looking into the potential economic, social, and environmental impact of a four-day working week.

“I can see how that might work for some roles but it’s hard to see how it would work in others, particularly in health, education, and manufacturing for example… but we need to keep an open mind when it comes to innovations in the world of work”, Varadkar said.

What are the potential benefits of a 4-day work week for employees?

In terms of the benefits, the idea of a four-day working week is attractive to employees because it allows them to have an extra day off every week, providing them with more free time to pursue personal interests, take care of family or just relax. This can result in employees feeling more refreshed and energized when they return to work. Furthermore, it can help reduce stress levels, which can lead to increased job satisfaction and lower rates of burnout.

How could Irish businesses be impacted by a 4-day work week?

A four-day working week could also potentially benefit some employers, as it can lead to increased productivity and employee retention. Some studies have shown that employees who work fewer hours are often more productive during their working hours as they are more focused and motivated. This is because they have a better work-life balance, which leads to reduced stress and burnout. In addition, a shorter workweek can lead to increased employee loyalty and lower staff turnover rates, which can be a significant cost-saving measure for companies. From a societal perspective, it has been suggested that a four-day working week can have a positive impact on the environment. Fewer workdays mean fewer people commuting to work, resulting in a reduction in traffic congestion and carbon emissions. This can be beneficial in addressing climate change concerns and improving air quality in urban areas.

A four-day working week could have significant benefits for both employees and employers in Ireland. While it may present challenges, this new work structure has the possibility to improve employee well-being, productivity, and job satisfaction while also benefiting the environment. Companies that can successfully navigate the transition to a shorter workweek may find that they have a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining top talent in a tight job market.

What are the potential downsides of a 4-day work week?

There are potential downsides to a four-day working week worth considering. Such as:

  1. Reduced productivity: Depending on the nature of the job, it may be challenging to get the same amount of work done in fewer days leading to reduced productivity due to the loss of one day’s work.
  2. Longer workdays: In order to maintain the same level of output with a 4-day workweek, some companies may require employees to work longer hours each day, which could lead to burnout and decreased work-life balance.
  3. Reduced income: A 4-day workweek often means a reduction in pay, as employees are working fewer hours.
  4. Difficulty meeting customer needs: In industries where customers expect to receive services or products on a daily basis, a 4-day workweek can make it difficult to meet these needs, which could result in a loss of business.
  5. Reduced career growth opportunities: A shorter workweek could mean fewer opportunities for career growth and advancement, as employees may have less time to invest in learning new skills and taking on additional responsibilities which could lead to lower engagement levels.

While there is evidently cross-over between the positives and negatives associated with a four day working week, what is clear is that measures of effectiveness need to be identified with clear goals and milestones in order to contemplate the key considerations. Employers may also face challenges in the actual implementation of a four-day working week. Companies may need to restructure their operations to ensure that productivity is maintained and that clients are not affected by the reduced workweek. Additionally, there may be increased costs associated with hiring additional staff to cover the extra day off or investing in technology to support a shorter working week.

Future of Work in Ireland

Whilst it is uncertain how widely the 4-day work week will be adopted in Ireland in the near future what is clear is that the ways of working in Ireland are undergoing transformation. The COVID-19 pandemic brought about significant changes in the way many people work. One of the most significant changes is the widespread adoption of flexible working arrangements, such as remote work and hybrid work. In terms of Employment Law to support employee rights around these new types of ways of working, there are imminent changes that Irish Organisations need to consider. We’ve seen The Work Life Balance Bill has now integrated will the Right to Request Remote Work Bill 2022, it is at Report Stage in Seanad Éireann, and will likely be enacted this year. The Bill will enforce certain new employer obligations regarding access to flexible and remote working options. Make sure your Organisation is planning for compliance and preparing for change.

We know it can be daunting for your business to keep up to date with the ever-changing employment law obligations. If you have any questions or concerns about these changes and how they impact your business please contact our experts in Adare Human Resource Management on 01 561 3594 / 061 363 805 or email