Thanks to COVID-19 the workweek has made some 'radical' changes: Some companies have embraced working remotely permanently and others have adjusted their hours to be flexible for employees.
One idea that continues to be tossed around is the 4-day work week.
No, this isn’t a 40-hour workweek with extended working hours. This is a 32-hour workweek.
On LinkedIn, there are dozens of posts floating around from executives effectively restructuring their organization around this fad. There are no pay cuts, just hour cuts. In exchange, employers are asking their workers to get their jobs done within the compressed time.
Initially popularized in New Zealand, it has been making its way to the states for some time now. Companies like Shake Shack and Uniqlo have hopped on board in hopes that the shortened week will boost productivity and morale.
This idea may seem truly unorthodox in the states where the majority of our week is dedicated to working, but does this idea hold any merit?
Here are both sides.
Why it’s a good idea
Flexible schedule = loyal employees
Surveys from FlexJobs show that 74% of workers care about work-life balance when selecting a job. After going remote, many found that the autonomy of remote time management is something they were unwilling to give up. Because of this, more and more people have opted for jobs that allow them to prioritize their health and personal life.
Around 80% of employees would be more loyal to their employees if they had a flexible schedule. This is supported by the fact that 30% of survey-takers actually left their role for one that offered more flexibility.
Squeezing five days of work into four doesn’t sound like a productivity booster. However, people aren’t always cognizant of how much time they’re burning throughout the day. Instead of the time consumed in an office, companies are now forced to measure the amount of work completed.
Some of the world’s most productive countries, like Denmark, France and the Netherlands, only work an average of 27 hours a week. While countries like Russia and Mexico rank 34 and 35 with an average of 38 – 41.2 hours per week.
A concept that many companies have implemented, is offering the 5th day off only if the expectations for the week have been made. This serves as a motivator for employees to use their time efficiently; and if they don’t finish their requirements, they have the additional day to do so.
Helps families and promotes workplace equality
Childcare challenges have become a career barrier for many families. Women disproportionately take on unpaid caregiving responsibilities when their family is unable to find and/or afford childcare. For millions of parents, the burden of family life can result in pay cuts or leaving their job. According to americanprogress.org, this childcare crisis costs $57 billion nationally.
In a 2018 survey from the Center for American Progress, mothers were 40 percent more likely than fathers to report that childcare issues have had a negative impact on their careers. Switching to a four-day workweek would give parents more time to spend with their children and alleviate this financial burden.
Why it’s a bad idea
Less time to meet goals
It’s idealistic to work less and relax more, all while accomplishing the exact same. Yes, people get motivated with breaks, but some things simply do take time. Procrastinating on building your arsenal of proficiencies and skills is not a solution for anyone.
Good companies don’t come from passive leadership, so if the motivator of your entire team is chugging along until the next break – you need to reconsider the culture that’s been created.
Your competition will be working Friday
When you’re not actively making money, your competition is. On the days that you’re not picking up the phone, someone else is. When you’re not at the frontlines putting your name out there, another brand is more than willing to sub in. Practically every brand is expendable. Markets are oversaturated with a myriad of options. We’ve never had so many choices, so you can’t assume that the shortened week doesn’t come at a potential price.
Not all employers have this luxury
The four-day work week is not an option for a lot of people. It’s impossible for hourly workers to limit their hours without taking a significant pay cut. If the 4-day workweek became standardized, it would mean that that other workers would also face adjustments to their schedule. Retail and food workers would be forced to working additional hours, while lower-level employees of restructured organizations would get slashed.
At the end of the day, the 4-day work week will be different for everyone individually. Some companies may find that this is the exact solution they’ve needed for 2021, while others will find it ineffective. It’s up to executive leaders to decide if this is the future.
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