Guide: what are the benefits of a 32-hour work week?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

In recent years, there has been a notable shift to flexible working. There are many benefits of working a 32-hour work week, including a better work-life balance. Businesses are increasingly moving away from the traditional 40-hour week model and offering flexible and part-time work to attract a more diverse and motivated workforce. In this article, we explore the benefits of working a 32-hour week for employees and for businesses, and consider some tips to get the most from this approach.

What is the concept behind a 32-hour work week?

Although it sounds like part-time work, many employers offer a 32-hour work week as a full-time work schedule. Employees earn their full salary and benefits, but instead of working the traditional 40 hours, they work 32 hours each week. The idea behind this model is that it offers two benefits. First, it gives people more free time to achieve a better work-life balance. Second, by paying their full salary, it ensures employees are as productive as they can possibly be within their working hours.

Usually, this structure involves working eight hours each day across four days and taking one day off. Another approach might be to work five shorter days. Each business has its own requirements and can offer flexibility around those needs.

Related: The benefits and challenges of the 30-hour work week

Benefits of a 32-hour weeks for employees

Here are some benefits employees can gain from a 32-hour week:

Better work-life balance

Employees can make the most of their free time through pursuing health and well-being initiatives, investing in their personal development, carrying out personal admin, resting and being with friends and family. A healthy work-life balance leads to a healthier, happier, more productive and high-performing workforce.

Better overall job satisfaction

When people have the chance to enjoy an extended weekend, or a shortened working week, they are more likely to feel engaged and motivated in their roles. Employees also tend to be appreciative of being able to work to a flexible schedule and recognise the benefits it offers, particularly when they can continue to earn a full-time salary and benefits.

Great levels of well-being

Overwork is a rapid route to poor physical and mental health. The presenteeism culture that once existed in many businesses often led to employee burn-out, which contributed to the need for extended periods of sick leave or lack of motivation, performance and morale. The 32-hour week builds in greater time for rest, creativity, learning, fitness or play. By maintaining a good level of overall health and well-being, employees are far more likely to be present, engaged, motivated, creative and high-performing in their work.

Related: Is a 3-day work week beneficial for some employees?

Benefits of 32-hour weeks for businesses

Some benefits of a 32-hour week for businesses include:

Better attendance

Employees inevitably require time out of work for personal circumstances. Examples of these could be doctor's or dentist's appointments. When a business offers a 32-hour working pattern, staff can schedule their calendars so they book their appointments on their free days.

Higher morale

A business that offers a shorter working week is likely to have a higher degree of employee morale. Employers show they care about their people and employees recognise the gesture of goodwill, trust and support. Shorter working schedules also encourage teams to work together creatively and collaboratively to ensure they get their work done. This can result in a fairer allocation of responsibilities.

Better efficiency

When people work 32-hour weeks, they still have the same tasks and responsibilities as those who work the full 40 hours. This means they are highly motivated to work as efficiently as possible. Employees on 40-hour weeks could experience distractions through tiredness or perhaps in knowing they could complete their tasks in less than 40 hours. By reducing the workweek, employees have the support and encouragement to stay focused to get everything done within 32 hours.

Higher levels of creativity and innovation

Shorter working weeks may encourage environments of innovation and creative thinking. When employees work to deliver their full-time job within fewer hours, they become more innovative and efficient at saving time and getting things done. This encourages everyone to find the best way to deliver their tasks and reduces waste in the organisation. Additionally, because people feel engaged, rested and valued, they are more able to think creatively.

More diversity

Businesses offering a shortened work week may find they have a more diverse workforce. This is because many people cannot work a full 40-hour week due to other responsibilities. For example, parents may do a school run, which means they cannot work a traditional nine-to-five job. If a shortened working week allows employees to choose a flexible pattern of work, then the business can attract a broader pool of talent into its roles. This leads to more diversity and more engaged, creative, high-performing employees with a broader base of talents, skills and experiences.

Better leadership

Business leaders may feel tired and burned out, too. Where traditional 40-hour week schedules are in place by default, there can be a culture of overtime. Too much overtime invariably leaves people feeling drained, run-down and less able to perform at work. When companies offer reduced week schedules, leaders may display more commitment to supporting them by tracking and promoting productivity. Leaders of people working 32-hour weeks tend to be active and committed, supporting and mentoring their direct reports to perform in their roles effectively and achieve all necessary performance targets. The 32-hour week becomes a self-sustaining one.

Reduced turnover

In companies with reduced work weeks, there tends to be lower turnover. People tend to appreciate the benefits of a 32-hour week. They feel supported in their roles, value the culture of the organisation and enjoy the fact that they get time off to relax. This working model is also still relatively new, so employees know they may not find comparable terms elsewhere. As a result, they may be likely to stay with their employer long term. This benefits the workforce overall as well as the business, providing a stable, sustainable and consistent employee base.

Related: What is a 9/80 schedule and what are the advantages?

How to get the most from working a 32-hour schedule

If your employer has implemented a reduced work week option, then it helps to plan your approach. You may still have the same duties, responsibilities and targets as a 40-hour working week staff member, so it's important to manage your time in a structured and organised way. Here are some tips for making your 32-hour week work:

1. Focus only on work

Your reduced working week means you have plenty of free time to pursue social, leisure, life administration, health and other activities. To fulfil the requirements of your job, focus your attention completely during working hours. Know when you tend to be the most productive and schedule your hardest tasks accordingly. For example, some people are more productive in the morning and do their most challenging work then, reserving meetings and creative time for the afternoon if possible.

2. Schedule your day

Start every day with a plan of action and list five achievable items for the day ahead. Have your resources at hand and then focus on your priorities. Allocate time for activities such as emails and phone calls. End each day with a wrap-up of what you achieved and make notes for the following day while everything is fresh in your mind.

3. Stay accountable

If you're new to working a shortened week, it can take a while to adapt. Learn from a more experienced colleague and work with them to stay accountable. This can help you share tips and ideas and keep each other on track.

4. Contribute ideas

Shortened weeks tend to boost creativity. If you have a good idea about how to deliver a task in a more effective way or ideas for streamlining processes, then share them with your manager and team. This can enable you to share good practices and ideas that help everyone to get the most from their role.

5. Coordinate with colleagues

The more closely you can work with colleagues to share work, collaborate and support each other, the easier it becomes to embed a successful shortened week culture into your organisation. Communicate regularly, flag issues as soon as possible, offer to help others and connect as much as possible to foster an open culture of cooperation and assistance.

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