Five Into Four? Tips to Navigating the Four-Day Work Week
Are you looking for ways to improve productivity, keep worker morale high and create a better work-life balance for your employees? Then it may be time to consider switching from a traditional five-day work week to a four-day one.
In an experiment that wrapped up in November involving 73 companies in the UK, employers and employees across the board have spoken favorably of the four-day workweek.
According to a New York Times report, "most of the companies participating in a four-day workweek pilot program in Britain said they had seen no loss of productivity during the experiment, and in some cases had seen a significant improvement."
Moreover, when surveyed, 85% of the participating companies indicated they were "likely" or "extremely likely: to continue the four-day workweek permanently.
Less May Be More
While it seems puzzling that a drop in hours could lead to higher productivity, some things are clear. Employees remain energized and focused with more time during the week to devote to activities like exercise, hobbies, and loved ones.
Moreover, the report reveals that the four-day workweek accomplishes something remote work can't, despite its employee-friendly perks. Joe O'Conner, chief executive of 4 Day Week Global, the nonprofit group that conducted the study, explains:
"If you look at the impact of the pandemic on the workplace, often we were too focused on the location of work. Remote and hybrid work can bring many benefits, but it doesn't address burnout and overwork."
Statistics Back Up Findings
While thresholds for burnout and overwork may be subjective, respondents to a recent four-day workweek survey by Eagle Hill Consulting provided some analytics that are irrefutable.
- 83% of employees say a four-day workweek would alleviate burnout
- 51% of employees feel they can do their jobs to the fullest extent in less than 40 hours.
- 28% of full-time employees would accept a cut in pay in exchange for a four-day workweek.
- 85% feel that a four-day workweek is logistically possible for them.
- 94% acknowledged that a four-day workweek would be an attractive benefit.
Clearly, the four-day workweek is a hot topic within the business community, as evidenced by this and similar studies conducted in the United States and elsewhere. However, this approach has critics.
Not Everyone on Board
In a piece titled 'The Cons of a Four-Day Work Week' on peoplehum.com, authors cite seven factors that make the four-day work week undesirable. Among them:
Benefits are More Fantasy than Reality
While employees who worked four days a week enjoyed more autonomy, personal worth, and job security than those with a traditional workweek, after 25 months, nearly all admitted that the improvements had vanished.
Extra Day Off Downsides
The extra day off that makes a shortened work week attractive may result in a ten-hour workday. In France, employees in a four-day workweek experiment ended up putting in the same number of hours as before, forcing the company to pay overtime.
Same Stress, Just Compressed
A four-day workweek could lead to days packed with meetings and less time to be productive, leading to stress and burnout. Moreover, employers may demand a higher level of dedication during the four days employees work.
Right for Your Enterprise Business?
Only you can determine if a four-day workweek will benefit your enterprise business. However, the following considerations can make the transition smoother if you decide to move forward.
For starters, consider a trial period. Six months should give you enough time to evaluate whether the experiment warrants stopping or making it permanent.
This post on desktime.com outlines additional steps summarized here:
Eliminate Low Priority Tasks
Help your employees reprioritize their to-do lists by eliminating tasks that take too much time. Focus on the necessary work and stop what's not. Consider outsourcing low-level tasks that must be done but require little experience or oversight.
Reduce Meeting Time
Work with your managers to reduce the number of meetings held each week and encourage alternative methods of communication. Email and platforms like slack can often accomplish in minutes what meetings take hours to accomplish.
Communicate the Shift
Inform your customers and clients that you're moving to a four-day workweek. Many will be receptive and those that aren't can typically be dealt with on a one-to-one basis. Assure skeptics that the products and services they require will still be there under this new approach. Then take steps to ensure this happens.
At the end of your trial period, you'll have a clear sense of what worked, what didn't and what adjustments will need to be made to make the four-day workweek part of your culture—or part of your past.