In 2018, nearly 70 per cent of Canadians said they would prefer a compressed four-day work week, rather than a five-day work week, according to an Angus Reid poll. Not much has changed since then. Many leaders, in fact, are now weighing the opportunity of utilizing a compressed work structure to rebuild the current economy.
We surveyed our LinkedIn audience about the benefits of a four-day work week, and the results were not surprising. 54 per cent of the respondents claimed that it would bring in greater work-life balance, while 34 percent suggested that it would increase productivity.
So here’s the big question: are businesses and government organizations equipped to embrace a four-day work week? This idea is compelling and feasible but it requires thorough evaluation and strategic execution.
1. Who Would Benefit? Companies should consider which demographic of people would benefit the most from a compressed work week. Some believe that a 4-day work week would best suit people who are in their 50’s and 60’s. This economically influential generation can make use of an extra day off by attending to tasks that are being put off such as doctor’s appointments, spending time with loved ones or pursuing a new passion. On the other hand, millennials and gen Z’s are more focused on shaping work priorities in ways that fit their daily lives, which includes remote work or a compressed work week.
2. Establishing A Trial Period: A four-day work structure is highly dependent on business and employee needs. Employees are drawn towards companies that offer flexibility and with a four-day work week concept, companies can become more desirable to job seekers. Perhaps doing a trial run for a couple of months and monitoring productivity and employee satisfaction is a good beginning point. In 2018, New Zealand’s Perpetual Guardian, a trust management company, tested this compressed work structure for 2 months with 240 team members. Productivity levels increased by 20 per cent and employee stress levels reduced by 7 per cent. Similarly, in August 2019, Microsoft Japan experimented this concept with it’s Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer Program, giving 2,300 employees five Fridays off without a pay decrease and a 40 per cent increase in productivity.
3. Assessing Business Operations: To evaluate whether a 4-day work concept is suitable for a company, leadership teams need to start by understanding their work culture and make decisions around the seasonality of their business. For instance, in California, an employee is entitled to over-time pay after eight hours of work a day. This means a non-exempt employee on a four-day work week would be receiving eight hours of overtime pay every week, if companies move to a 4 day, 40 work hours scenario.
4. Stakeholder Evaluation: Businesses should examine the impact of a four-day work week structure on its stakeholders on both sides of the value chain. Will companies lose valuable business by not being available five days of the week? If your clients/vendors operate on a traditional work schedule, but your team is working a compressed week, how is this going to impact coordination and ultimately productivity? Be prepared for the challenges associated with a compressed work week and plan accordingly to mitigate any issues.
A three-day weekend sounds great, but it may not be suitable for everyone and every business. There are certainly pros and cons to doing this. Will it become a new normal of employment? Perhaps. But it will likely happen in stages and require a widespread change in attitude.