It's been a couple of months since the coronavirus pandemic made thousands of companies go remote. Many teams are now facing a dilemma: "do we go back to the office (at least temporarily), or do we embrace...
A proper business game-changer or an HR fad that will soon pass? Not everyone agrees about the real merit of a four-day workweek, but it undoubtedly has been a hot topic in the past couple of months. Where do we stand? As it is the case with many dilemmas, the answer is “it depends.” Today, we’ll help you figure out whether this model of work is something your company could benefit from and where to start if you decide to convert your teams’ weeks from 5 days to 4.
First, let’s talk about different types of a four-day workweek, as they don’t all come the same.
What is a four-day workweek?
On the surface, it may seem that the term is pretty self-explanatory: people work for four days instead of five. Yes, but there are two main options, each of them popular in its own rights:
- 32-hour week. In this model, employees work four days a week, each day consisting of eight hours. It means that they have one extra day off each week.
- 40-hour week (often referred to as a “compressed week”). Here, employees work the same amount of hours as they would working five days a week—40 hours. The difference is that they put these hours in over four days, effectively needing to work 10 hours per day.
The second model is already fairly popular in American companies. 1/3 of organizations surveyed by SHRM for their “US Employee benefits” report claim that they offer this model of work. The 32-hour week, on the other hand, is offered by 15% of surveyed companies.
How can it even be profitable?
The four-day workweek’s main headline is that it’s advantageous for both: the organization and its employees. It may be not easy to see, especially looking at the 32-hours model. How is that even possible?
First of all, there’s something to be said about growing automation potential in many verticals. Some companies can simply use machines or automated workflows to complete many tasks, enabling human resources to take more time off.
At the same time, some case studies show that employees may just be able to complete their work in a shorter timeframe when faced with an additional day off. A famous example is Perpetual Guardian, a company from New Zealand that tested the four-day workweek. Not only did it not lead to a productivity crisis—people were actually less stressed and more committed.
Pros of four-day workweeks
Decreased stress level, higher commitment—these are just two of the potential benefits of a four-day workweek. Another one would definitely be a better work-life balance. After all, employees now have an additional day to spend with their loved ones, pursue their passions, etc.
Yet another advantage of 4-day workweeks that shouldn’t be ignored is its impact on your team’s carbon footprint. Fewer cars on the roads, lower electricity usage, and decreased carbon emissions make a real difference.
A four-day schedule may also help you attract more job candidates. According to the “Work, for me” study created by the Manpower Group, the importance of schedule flexibility has increased dramatically for candidates.
Cons of four-day workweeks
The concept of a four-day workweek is not without its pitfalls. For many companies, it is absolutely unimaginable to have their whole workforce off for an additional day of the week. Client-facing businesses usually can’t afford to introduce the same day off for every employee. If you’re worried about lower customer satisfaction, you should probably think about rotating the day off.
Another disadvantage is mainly present for people who work in the compressed week model. Staying on the job for 10 hours can be physically and mentally exhausting. Cramming up 40 hours into 4 days might feel like a punishment instead of an employee benefit.
Four-day workweek checklist: how to start?
Since you’re reading this blog post, I assume that you’re considering the four-day workweek model. By know, you realize that this concept comes with both opportunities and challenges. What’s the optimal way forward? Here’s how you can proceed.
First of all, don’t blindly buy into the hype. You need to keep in mind that, while an excellent option for many teams, the 4day workweek is not a universal solution and not a quick fix. Start by analyzing your organization’s needs and figuring out why you even consider introducing this model. Perhaps your employees express their need for greater flexibility, or maybe you want to tackle your team’s productivity issues. Understanding what and why you want to achieve will help you pick the best way to do that.
If you want to give your workers more time off, but you’re not yet ready for a 4-day week commitment, you could try alternative solutions:
- 9/80 work schedule where employees put in 80 hours into 9 days (usually they work for 9 hours and then take a day off every other week). It’s a less intense compressed workweek, yet it provides people with more time off.
- Seasonal schedules, e.g., “summer Fridays.” You can decide that, for instance, from May to September, your employees are allowed to take half of Fridays (or full Fridays) off. Basecamp has adopted this kind of schedule, and they claim that “Removing a day each week forces you to prioritize the work that really matters, and let the rest go. It’s not about working faster but learning to work smarter. It’s about honing your prioritization, scope hammering and judo skills.”
Make sure to consider legal aspects when picking the best model of a shortened workweek. For example, in some places, people need to get extra compensation when they work more than 8 hours per day.
Take a moment to think about your clients—will they be well-taken care of in the new model? Do you need to plan “customer care shifts” for your employees?
Once you decide on a 4-day workweek model that seems to bode best for your organization, you still need to make sure that your team is ready for a new challenge. Keep in mind that, to maintain a high level of productivity with fewer days, your employees should excel at:
If you don’t feel confident about their skills in these areas, it might be a good time to invest in employee training.
It’s also a great opportunity to discuss optimization ideas with your team. When you have fewer days a week to get the job done, you can’t afford to have operational inefficiencies. It might be the case that your team members notice improvement ideas that you fail to see—give them a chance to speak up.
When introducing a four-day workweek, it’s also critical that you assess your team’s goals. Your employees need to have a clear vision of what they should achieve in order to plan their tasks efficiently and work productively. Otherwise, you shouldn’t count on a miraculous productivity boost from the shortened workweek.
Find a way to measure your team’s performance and track their efforts. Naturally, our recommendation is to use a time tracking tool. With timesheets, you can keep an eye on your team’s workload and see if the condensed week doesn’t translate into overtime for some or all of your team members.
How can you tell if the 4-days week mission is a success? One idea would be to use your team’s timesheets and compare estimates with actuals (planned hours with tracked hours). Teamdeck, a complete resource management tool, allows you to generate a similar report:
If your team’s actual hours exceed the planned schedule, it may indicate that people’s productivity is not on point. Of course, the new 4-day schedule might not be to blame, but it’s a clear signal for you to dig deeper and try to understand what’s going on.
Over to you!
As a company leader, you have likely heard about a four-day workweek numerous times in the past couple of months. It’s also very possible that your employees express their hope for more workplace flexibility. We hope that this guide helps you move forward and ultimately decide whether it’s the right option for your company.