The 4-day workweek has grown in popularity over recent years, and many companies are choosing to adopt and redefine the five days a week,9-5 model. New structures like this have us all questioning- ‘Is the 9-5 model outdated?’
The global adoption of remote working since the 2020 pandemic has reframed where their employees work from, is now the time for the 4 day work week revolution?
A four-day workweek can be defined in two ways; the first is when an employee compresses their full-time hours over a four-day period. And the second is reducing an employee’s hours over four days.
While the concept of this new industrial revolution seems exciting, it’s vital that organizations take the time to truly understand the pros and cons of this new way of working.
The Benefits Of The 4 Day Work Week
Better Work-Life Balance
Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand firm trialed a four-day week. The results found that 78% of employees could more effectively balance their work and home life. This was compared to 54% prior to the experiment. Other organizations that have implemented the 4-day work week have noted that their team members were better able to focus on work during their scheduled work times because they had more time to manage and organize personal errands during their 3-day weekend.
Increased Employee Wellbeing and Reduction of Burnout
In Iceland, the 4-day workweek was trialled by the Reykjavík City Council and the national government. The trial included more than 2,500 workers, which amounts to about 1% of Iceland’s working population between 2015-2019. They found that after this trial, workers reported feeling less stressed and at risk of burnout, and said their health and work-life balance had improved. They also reported having more time to spend with their families, do hobbies and complete household chores.
This level of flexibility throughout the workday can support employees in creating a better work-life integration and prioritize the habits, practices and activities outside of work that help them feel well and happy. The research shows us that when employees can invest energy in areas that support their well-being, they can be up to four times less likely to feel burnout at work.
Increased Job Satisfaction
Research also indicates that offering flexible work increases job satisfaction. Workers cited in a recent study reported that flexible work, including alternate schedules and work-from-home options, had more control over their schedules and more time to spend with family.
Attract and Retain Talent
With the Great Resignation posing one of the most common challenges for organizations today- employee turnover, having a culture of flexibility can help. SimpleTexting found that 3 out of every four respondents surveyed would consider leaving their current job if offered a position to work a four-day workweek.
It’s of no surprise that offering a shorter working week schedule is attractive but is it helping companies in their hiring efforts? The University of Reading found that 63% of employers in the UK said that a four-day workweek helped attract and retain talent.
The Disadvantages of The 4 Day Work Week
While the 4 Day Work Week is continuing to grow in popularity and has become a more than desirable way to attract talent, it has its disadvantages.
It Doesn’t Suit Every Business Model
Of course, the 4-day workweek isn’t applicable to every industry or organization. It’s relatively easier for jobs that rely on knowledge workers that aren’t customer-facing to have the ability to work a reduced number of days per week. Organizations might find that some of their departments may be applicable for the 4- day work week while other teams like the customer service department may need to have 24/7 coverage. To ensure fairness and equality in these cases, companies must understand how opportunities can be customized for different departments. Making sure each area of the business is covered during the workday can require more effort scheduling and forethought.
Increased Stress Levels
One of the major benefits of this way of working is that it can lower stress levels in our teams and help them feel better in themselves by having a better work-life balance. However, if the 4-day work week isn’t implemented effectively and employees don’t feel supported throughout the changes, it can do the opposite of helping our teams feel better. Unrealistic timelines and urgency of projects are some of the main contributing factors to employee burnout. If an organization is already witnessing these challenges within their teams, adding additional pressure to achieve in a lower amount of time will only make it worse.
Continual Improvement of Internal Processes
Gallup found that for employee engagement, the quality of the work experience was more important than the number of days worked. It’s not enough to just shorten the workweek if an organization is already experiencing challenges around employee engagement and wellbeing.
Especially for remote and hybrid teams, it’s vital that organizations have effective internal processes around communication and collaboration before implementing a new way of working. For example, if a team is struggling with endless meetings and their calendars are overloaded, trying to implement a shorter workweek can add to increased stress. Refining and improving the current processes is equally or if not more important than implementing the new.
How To Make The 4 Day Work Week Work
There’s a lot to consider when organizations are completely revamping the way that they work and leadership teams can feel overwhelmed by yet another change. Introducing more flexibility into the workplace can feel like a daunting task for any leadership team, and it does have multiple layers of consideration to it. Flexibility can be introduced at stages and will look different for every department and, in some cases, teams. For example, if you have a customer service department supporting customers on the phone or chatting at a specific time, your workforce planning can’t allow for flexibility. However, for your engineering department that primarily isn’t customer-facing, it might make sense to consider how flexibility can be introduced into this type of environment.
Suppose a four-day workweek seems very far away from your organization’s current situation. In that case, I invite you to consider introducing micro ways of flexible working to your team members—for example, creating flexibility around start and end times to a particular day and introducing ‘core hours’ onto your team. Core hours are the main hours that require your team to be online at the same time together. Outside of these core hours, team members can choose to start between a specific time in the morning and depending on when they start, that will determine their work finish time.
Here are some strategies for improvement that your organization can start to tackle that will support you in not only being a more efficient team but eventually support you in implementing the 4-day work week if it’s right for your company:
Improve internal team processes
- Increase automation
- Measure outcomes, not hours
Make team communication more effective
- Reduce and shorten meetings
- Spend less time on email and messaging apps
- Introduce improved asynchronous communication
Support teams in being more productive
- Prioritize and reevaluate tasks
- Minimize interruptions and distractions
- Define clear goals
- Solicit regular employee feedback
- Learn from trial and error
Author: Shauna Moran