The benefits of the four-day workweek are touted far and wide. But can it work outside of a white-collar setting?

One of the more common things for critics and detractors of the four-day workweek proposal to suggest is that it is, essentially, only available to a specific subset of the workforce: office-based white-collar workers.

“Dreaming of a four-day work week?” asked a recent Globe and Mail headline. “Only the white collars will realize its benefits.”

The argument is that, while the benefits of a four-day workweek may have a plethora of evidence behind it, practically it only benefits certain components of the workforce.

“The biggest beneficiaries are those workers who already have significant control over their time,” wrote Todd Hirsch in the Globe piece. “These tend to be higher-paid knowledge workers ― ones with paid sick leave, flex days, paid vacations and other time-related benefits.”

A recent New York Magazine article crunched the data to look at this angle. It found that in the American context, most workers are paid hourly and not by salary ― meaning a conventionally implemented four-day workweek likely causes them to lose out on hours.

“While optimizing the percentage of work hours in which an employee is actually productive delivers more paid time off for the salaried worker, it leaves the hourly laborer with both less pay and a more unpredictable schedule,” commented Eric Levitz.

The economic elite seem to be aware of this. At Davos, earlier this year, the Dutch minister of social affairs Karien van Gennip said of the four-day workweek: “This is very much a discussion for the upper class.”

But could a bit of creativity ― and willingness on the part of the employer to make up the difference ― be all that is required to adapt the four-day week to blue-collar workers? Some say it can work.

Roofing Contractor magazine highlighted the experience of a roofing joint manufacturing company in Toronto called Situra, which instituted a four-day week in 2021. The company chose to rotate employees working four days across a five-day week, without deducting pay or lengthening the workdays. Contrary to common assumptions about the four-day week in a blue-collar context, productivity improved.

“I think [employees] are really happy with having that extra day, they look forward to it, it’s like having a little vacation every week,” said Klara Pronerova, Situra’s workforce operations officer. “(Production) hasn’t been behind once, they haven’t stalled, they just get their things done by Thursday.”

Content written by Kieran Delamont for Worklife, a partnership between Ahria Consulting and London Inc. To view this content in newsletter form, click here.