The concept of a four-day workweek isn’t new, but it’s gained traction as the COVID-19 pandemic caused increasing numbers of employees to work remotely some or all the time. A 2022 survey by professional services company Ernst & Young found that nearly half (40%) of surveyed companies had or were in the process of implementing a four-day workweek. These models are overwhelmingly popular among employees and have been shown to increase productivity, improve employee well-being, decrease burnout and reduce employee turnover. However, the effectiveness of four-day workweeks can vary with an organization and its employees. This article highlights essential lessons from organizations that implemented four-day workweeks.
What Is the Four-day Workweek?
The four-day workweek typically reduces the 40-hour workweek to 32 hours without reducing employee pay or benefits. The results-based concept focuses on employee productivity rather than hours worked. Some organizations institute four-day workweeks by giving all employees Fridays off. Other organizations may allow workers to choose their day off or will create company-wide days off in the middle of the week.
Does the Four-day Workweek Work?
According to CNBC, nearly all (85%) individuals favor a four-day workweek. Additionally, 15% of workers who trialed the four-day workweek said “no amount of money” would make them accept a five-day workweek at their next job. This significantly impacts retention. Employers who trialed the four-day workweek in the United Kingdom saw employee resignations drop 57% over the trial period, prompting most (92%) employers to continue with the four-day workweek. This concept has also been shown to increase productivity by improving employee well-being and encouraging workers to be as efficient as possible with the time they have.
Despite numerous benefits, some organizations report issues with the four-day workweek as it reduces socialization opportunities and limits personal and professional development opportunities. Additionally, some organizations fear employees would take advantage of a four-day workweek to be unproductive.
Essential Takeaways From Organizations That Implemented Four-day Workweeks
Before implementing a four-day workweek, employers should consider the experiences of similar organizations and the lessons learned. The following are considerations for employers interested in shortening the workweek:
- Ease into it. Employers can help employees prepare for the transition to a four-day workweek by making Fridays less busy in the weeks leading up to implementation. This can ease the transition by familiarizing workers and clients with the shift in scheduling. It also enables supervisors to uncover any potential problems with execution before the change begins.
- Communicate with clients. Organizations should communicate plans to clients. This can build trust and prevent mistakes or lost clients due to misunderstanding. Depending on the industry, some employers may find setting up an emergency contact line beneficial so clients and customers can get urgent assistance when needed.
- Understand that it may not work. Employee acceptance of four-day workweeks may vary with workload, department and personality. It may not be suitable for everyone. Communicate openly with workers about the transition to ensure employees’ concerns are heard and addressed.
- Monitor the intensity of work. A four-day workweek improves worker well-being by putting their needs first. It’s not meant to increase the intensity of work by reducing hours. Pay attention to how employees respond to the four-day workweek. If employees are forced to take shorter breaks and work harder and longer hours during the week, a four-day workweek might not fit that organization.
- Get regular feedback. A poorly managed transition to a four-day workweek can harm organizational goals. Although flexibility and work/life balance are important to employees, employers must communicate clearly with workers throughout the transition. Proactively ask for employee opinions with surveys and small meetings to understand how the four-day workweek schedule could be improved to increase engagement.
- Focus on employees. Clearly define goals and expectations to ensure workers aren’t confused about what the four-day workweek means. Help employees prioritize what’s most valuable by limiting meetings and reducing work-related socializing. This will ensure that workers are making the most of their shortened schedules.
Organizations implementing four-day workweeks may see numerous benefits in employee engagement, well-being, productivity and retention. However, many factors go into making this transition successful. Employers should research if a four-day workweek is right for their organization and learn from the mistakes of other organizations to ensure effective implementation.
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