Are Four-Day Work Weeks—Good or Bad for Introverts?

The four-day work week isn’t close to becoming the norm just yet. But more and more companies are at least giving their workers the option to cut down to four days per week, as long as they can do so without reducing their productivity.

On a national basis, five countries (Belgium, France, Lithuania, Iceland and the United Arab Emirates) have now officially implemented the four-day work week option, while nine other countries (including the United States and Canada) have carried out experiments to test its viability—with generally promising results, with respect to worker productivity and satisfaction.

So the concept is clearly beginning to pick up speed as it travels down the runway.  

But it is reasonable to wonder about how this radical change might impact people with different personality types. In particular, it raises questions about how Introverts might respond to this profound shift in the way they do their job. On the one hand, it’s a whole extra day completely free from job responsibilities. But most who choose to work four days per week instead of five inevitably see an increase in their daily work-hour average—and longer days can take their toll on Introverts.

What’s the downside?

While a shorter workweek might sound great in theory, it can be disruptive for Introverts who’ve established a routine that works for them. It's not just a question of cramming your work responsibilities into fewer days—there are more fundamental changes to consider:

1. Workplace relationships

A more concentrated work schedule could subtly alter an Introvert's relationships with co-workers, subordinates, supervisors and employers. For example, an Introvert may have less time to take breaks, recharge and rest away from social interaction during the working day. Meetings and collaborations may get concentrated into a smaller time window, and there may be less time for quieter, one-on-one conversations. All of this may make the day more anxiety-inducing for Introverts.

2. Workload focus

When a workweek is just four days long, it's almost certain there will be an increase in the intensity of everyone’s responsibilities. Employees may be under pressure to take fewer or shorter breaks, or work longer hours, to make sure productivity doesn’t lag. A more intense work schedule can be especially stressful for Introverts who count on having periods of quiet time to focus on their workload and who may feel overwhelmed by an unrelentingly high pace.

3. Adjusting to change

Another significant downside for Introverts is the challenge of adapting to this substantial change from the conventional five-day workweek. The transition often requires a complete rethink away from the status quo—including your current work-life balance—and there inevitably will be a bevy of new rules, regulations and expectations to absorb and deal with. Introverts usually aren’t eager to speak up when something isn't working, meaning they might choose to live with more stress and anxiety rather than risk rocking the boat.

What are the benefits?

It's not all bad news!  There are some potential benefits of four-day work weeks that Introverts might welcome. These include:

1. No more doing for the sake of doing

In general, there would be less time for 'fake' work that doesn't add value and chit-chat with co-workers, managers or clients during a four-day workweek, since working hours would be reduced and everyone would be kept busier than before. There's a fair chance that time-wasting activities will be chopped—goodbye pointless meetings!

2. More focus on independent work

Depending on the job, it's possible that managers might encourage workers to complete more projects independently, as opposed to collaboratively. This would be a way to increase efficiency, since assignments could be spread out more widely and more things could be accomplished simultaneously. Being organized, focused and self-sufficient are skills that will shine in this environment, and that could be good for Introverts who tend to work more neatly in their minds.

3. Better work-life balance

Everyone, regardless of their personality, strives to establish the proper work-life balance. For Introverts this equation includes time to refresh, relax, reflect and recharge—all of which will be easier to find with three off days each week rather than just two! Even if they have to take work home more often to finish it in time, this is still preferable to working an extra day in a busy office environment.

How to handle the four-day workweek—tips for Introverts

If you’re an Introvert who has suddenly been thrust into a four-day workweek, the following steps can help make your adjustment easier.

  • Organize your work days in advance, to make sure you are working as efficiently as possible and that you can finish projects on time. This will prevent you from feeling pressured to cram too much activity into too few hours.
  • Set clear boundaries about when you’re available for work and when you aren’t. Just because you have an extra day away from the office doesn’t mean your boss can always contact you. 
  • Create a peaceful zone of privacy where you’ll be left free to concentrate on your work without interruption or distraction. This will help you accomplish your assigned tasks without feeling rushed to finish. Introverts are most productive when they can remain calm and focused.
  • Make sure you use that extra day off wisely! Family demands can be more exhausting than professional work, but there isn’t much you can do about that. Try to make self-care your focus for at least a few hours of your days away from work. 
  • Speak up about any concerns you might have. Remember that your boss and coworkers want this new system to work as much as you do, so it’s important that you communicate openly and professionally if you think things could be done better. 

Final words

The idea behind these recommendations is to make the four-day workweek a positive instead of a negative, which is the way it should be. As long as you’re prepared for what’s coming, there’s no reason why your introverted personality traits should prevent you from enjoying the changes. In the end, it will mean you have 50 extra days each year to do whatever you want, and that should leave you feeling excited about what the future holds.  

Nathan Falde
Nathan Falde has been working as a freelance writer for the past six years. His ghostwritten work and bylined articles have appeared in numerous online outlets, and in 2014-2015 he acted as co-creator for a series of eBooks on the personality types. An INFJ and a native of Wisconsin, Nathan currently lives in Bogota, Colombia with his wife Martha and their son Nicholas.