Why Companies Should Consider Moving to a 4-Day Workweek
A decade ago, none of us would have imagined getting stuck in a pandemic for more than a year, however, COVID-19 has proven that when deemed necessary, workplaces can quickly adapt to abrupt changes.
In America, employees are accustomed to working long hours, and the pandemic has further blurred the boundaries between work and personal life. However, times are changing, as more companies around the world are adapting unconventional practices in their workplaces to provide a better working experience for their employees, while at the same time ensuring cost-effective measures for their businesses.
Some companies in Russia, New Zealand, UK, and Japan have been testing the idea of a four-day workweek to measure employee productivity, work satisfaction, and business outcomes. Some of these companies have already gone past the testing phase and have permanently adopted the four-day working week policy.
Recently, American companies have also jumped on board and started introducing the concept. Buffer - a social media tool management company is a great example of a workplace atmosphere that provides a great work-life balance. Buffer does not have an office and all 89 of its employees work remotely. After the pandemic hit, the company gave its employees an extra day off, thereby reducing the workweek to four days a week.
Compressing the work week to four days doesn’t mean that the employees have to work extra hard to meet the deadlines, rather, they should be working like they normally do. Compressing too much work in less time can lead to burn out. Before adopting such a model, employers need to set boundaries and managers need to assign tasks that can realistically be completed in four days. The idea of a four day work week is to accomplish actual work in lesser hours compared to the standard 8 hours. Just because people are sitting behind a desk for 8 hours everyday doesn’t mean they are working straight for all of those hours.
When we are working for a certain number of hours per week, we adjust our work to fill the allotted time. This concept is called Parkinson’s law- a term coined by Cyril Northcote Parkinson. The law states that the work expands to fill the time available, hence, at times, people may end up leaving the work to the eleventh hour.
The four-day work week is about working productively in shorter periods of time, with less procrastination, and better time management.
If you are considering shifting to a four-day workweek policy, here are some of the factors you can consider to make an informed decision.
When Microsoft Japan office switched to a four-day workweek, the employee productivity increased by 40%. In addition, the company also cut the duration of their meetings from one hour to half an hour. In 2018, Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand wills and trust management company adopted a four-day workweek in an effort to improve productivity and to effectively meet personal and business goals and objectives. The result was a 20% increase in employee productivity and a 45% increase in employee work-life balance. Employees also reported a 27% decrease in work-related stress.
Shake Shack, a US-based burger chain noticed a spike in recruitment when they cut their 5 day work week to 4 days in some of their stores. Parents were happier as they were able to save 4-5 days worth of daycare expenses (which can be usually crazy at times) every month. The extra day also helped parents spend more time with their children and complete the pending household chores.
Improved Mental Health
A four-day workweek can not only improve work productivity but also relieve stress. One less day at work means one extra day to relax and spend time with friends and family.
We all can agree on the fact that the rush hour traffic is the last thing we want to be stuck in at the end of our workday. One less day on the road can be a good break from such mental and physical fatigue. Fewer cars on roads mean people can get back to their homes in time to kick back and relax before getting pulled into the same grind the next day.
According to Henley Business School research, companies in the UK that adopted a four-week workday saw an increase in employee happiness (78%) and a decrease in stress (70%). In addition, companies also saw a 62% decrease in sick leaves.
Since the pandemic hit, Google has perhaps saved hundreds of thousands of dollars on food alone. Many companies offer benefits such as free food, beverages, and gym access to employees. One less workday means spending less money on those extra perks. In addition, you will be saving on electricity, printing, and office supplies.
Microsoft Japan reported a 23% decrease in electricity costs after they moved to a four-day workweek.
In today’s world, it’s not always easy to find the right talent for your company. The process of hiring can be long, tiring, and stressful. Employers also need to keep in mind the fact that job-hopping has become a norm in today’s time. According to Experience.com, about 70% of Gen-Y employees are leaving their jobs within two years of hiring.
As an employer, during the hiring process, you spend a bunch of resources on training and onboarding to find the right fit for your company. Once you have hired a great employee, you want them to stay with the company for at least a few years.
Henley Business School research found that the four-day workweek has helped employers attract and retain talent by 63%. Two-thirds (67%) of Gen-Z employees believe that a four-day workweek will certainly help them make a better decision for the employer they want to work for. These numbers speak volumes on how having a four-day workweek can be a magnet for talented individuals who want to work at a place that not only appreciates their talent but also values work-life balance.