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Managing business expenses in a four day work week.

How Much Would a 4-Day Workweek Affect Your Business Expenses?

Brink's Money

03 Nov 2021

In 2008, at the height of its interest in America, then-Gov. Jon Huntsman rolled out a ten-hours-per-day, four-day workweek to 18,000 Utah state employees. The benefits that followed may not surprise you. Employees took less vacation time and reduced their overtime hours. State buildings reduced their energy consumption. And employees, now getting an extra fifty-two days away from work, welcomed increased happiness and well-being, which lent to greater productivity.

Models like the one Utah implemented are considered a condensed version of the four-day workweek, where working four days still demands forty hours per week. Other recent, more ambitious models found in Europe and Asia take off the day and the hours with it, creating a true four-day workweek at thirty-two hours with no reduction in pay. The personal benefits are essentially the same; more time away from work, more time with family, more leisure, and improved work-life balance. To many employees, this all spells greater happiness. 

Companies, too, benefit from a four-day workweek as they tout increased levels of productivity. Microsoft Japan saw a 40 percent increase in productivity. In New Zealand, Perpetual Guardian claimed a 20 percent increase. Even when gains in productivity are marginal as a result of a shorter workweek, the benefits are clearly in the employee's favor. But what about businesses? How would cutting hours or a day affect your business expenses?

Should a four-day workweek ever be in your future, let's take a look at what it might look like by the numbers. We can start with your overhead expenses.

Expenses that Won’t Change

Whichever workweek model you're considering, either condensed or otherwise, there are expenses you simply can't avoid. For example, your payroll won't change since none of the models suggest reductions in pay. That means what might be your most significant expense will remain unchanged. If you have a brick-and-mortar establishment, your rent or mortgage payments won't change either. And if you're a small business that offers them, cutting the workweek by a day won't save you any money on employee benefits. Equipment and vehicle lease payments still need to be made, too. Advertising and marketing expenses likely won't see any reductions either since one less workday wouldn't affect your desire for brand exposure. In fact, with one less day a week to compete, you might pursue your marketing effort more aggressively. With many expenses left unchanged, where's the relief?

Expenses that Might Be Affected

Utilities

For those with a physical establishment, you're almost sure to see reductions in your utility bills. According to Iota Communications, the average cost of utilities for commercial buildings is about $2.10 per square foot. If you operate a business in food and beverage, you'll end up at the top of the spectrum at around $5.50 per square foot. Other industries like retail and warehousing will find themselves at the lower end of the spectrum. With one less day of operation, you will undoubtedly see reduced energy bills. How much exactly depends on your average consumption and other variables like seasonality.

Travel

If you're a business with travel regularly woven into your schedule, one less day per week could end up saving you thousands of dollars per month. The cities you frequently travel to and the number of team members you have pounding the pavement will help you determine just how much. 

Airfare

In the first quarter of 2021, the U.S. average domestic airfare was $260. Depending on where you're flying out from, that total price could be $30-40 cheaper or more expensive. If your employees are booking flights, chances are they'll need to book hotels too. The U.S. General Services Administration reports current per diem costs for lodging, meals, and incidentals total more than $300 in most major cities. Coastal travel through major cities could cost you upward of $400 per day on days in which you aren't arriving or departing. 

Fuel and Maintenance

The national average price of gas is $3.27 per gallon in October 2021. If you own a business that lives by getting trucks on the road, such as maintenance, delivery, and installation-oriented services, the weight of monthly fuel costs is heavy. One less day on the road means significantly less road-related costs depending on the size of your fleet, what kinds of vehicles you operate, and the average daily mileage you put on them. Your cadence of mechanical services will slightly change, too, but the most apparent shift will come to your fuel expenses. However, there are no four-day workweek insurance plans. Remember that vehicles off the road and unchanged insurance payments mean lost money as you continue to insure your vehicles.

The Final Word

On the surface, the benefits employees have to gain from a shortened workweek seem to outweigh those a business might gain from it. Whether or not a four-day workweek is suitable for your business, operations, and industry is for you to consider. Perhaps you can't afford to compete one less day, or your consumers depend on the availability of your service five days a week. Employee well-being is a priority for many of the most successful companies, but if you have to sacrifice some revenue and profits to prove it, how far are you willing to go? And do the benefits of employees with increased well-being outweigh the costs you're likely to incur from it?

Whichever latest workforce trend has you debating your current operations or the workweek your company currently inhabits, you'll need the same real-time control and transparency of your expenses. With real-time dashboards, customer reports, and virtual cards, we've reached the peak of evolution in expense management. Brink's Business Expense solution prioritizes security, control, and visibility so you can spend more time prioritizing the well-being and success of your team.

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