A 4-day workweek could be the key to helping older workers transition into retirement

March 2, 2023, 3:00 PM UTC
Portrait of senior woman in front of her house
"If near-retirees are happier at work, they may be more apt to stay in the workforce longer."
MoMo Productions

As the notion of a four-day workweek picks up momentum, the benefits have been extolled for working parents and people suffering from burnout. It’s also been touted as a way to attract younger talent.

But there’s another group that the shortened workweek would uniquely benefit, one financial advisor says: people near or in retirement.

“The four day work week may make people stay in the workplace a little longer,” says Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner at Equitable Advisors. “If you’re spending the whole weekend doing your chores, you don’t have a day to have fun and catch up on your health.”

But with a three-day weekend, it could be easier for older workers to stay rested and in the game, she says, extending the work life of near-retirees in a manageable way.

Many people naturally slow down as they get older, but don’t have the financial means to leave the workforce. Moving to a four-day workweek could help them save more for their retirement, keep their health insurance until they can enroll in Medicare, push back when they start taking Social Security (leading to higher monthly payments), and do work they love until they are ready to fully retire.

A recent study shows the benefits of a four-day week. In the second half of 2022, 61 businesses in the United Kingdom participated in a four-day workweek pilot program. The researchers found that it helped lessen employees’ burnout and stress, and the number of sick and personal days taken fell by 65%. At the same time, productivity did not fall.

Studies done in other countries, including the U.S., have found similar results. A four-day workweek, proponents say, could be one solution to the growing problem of employee burnout in the U.S. There is a growing number of state governments introducing legislation to test out the shortened workweeks.

A 4-day workweek would help older workers transition into retirement

For older workers, the flexible arrangements are a perfect de-escalation to their working lives, helping them as they transition out of the workforce. Many older workers take part-time jobs or scale back hours now; a four-day week could make it possible for even more of them to reduce their workloads—and stress levels.

“The four-day workweek also has the potential to decrease burnout,” says D’Agostini. “If near-retirees are happier at work, they may be more apt to stay in the workforce longer due to the purpose, social connections, and job satisfaction that employment can offer.”

Companies could benefit as well. Not only were workers more productive during a four-day week, but organizations could potentially hold onto the most experienced employees longer. In turn, these employees bring institutional knowledge, and can mentor their younger, less-experienced co-workers.

But it isn’t all about workplace productivity, she says. Three days off each week leaves plenty of time for near retirees to start doing the things they might be saving for full retirement, like learning a new skill or being more active in a chosen vocation. Their quality of life overall could improve.

Near-retirees may also be able to reap the health benefits of working less: Having the time to exercise more, spending more time in nature, and generally moving away from the hustle and bustle of corporate America, D’Agostini says, without losing the income and health insurance.

“You can spend more quality time with family and friends if you don’t need to spend your extra time away from work doing chores and household duties,” she says.

As companies continue to negotiate what work looks like in 2023, it’s worth the consideration, says D’Agostini.

“That’s the one benefit COVID showed us,” she says. “We can work differently and still be successful.”

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