Recently, California Congressman Mark Takano proposed that organizations move to working a 4-day work week. It’s a trend that many organizations have been adopting over the years, and it’s piqued the curiosity of many HR leaders as they try to navigate—and negotiate—employee expectations post-pandemic.
As Congressman Takano said, “after a nearly two-year-long pandemic that forced millions of people to explore remote work options, it’s safe to say that we can’t—and shouldn’t—simply go back to normal, because normal wasn’t working”. He suggests moving to a 32 hour work week, where anything more is paid as overtime.
As of April 1, 38 companies across Canada and the United States are participating in a test experiment for working a 4-day work week that will run through September. The program is run by “4 Day Week Global, a nonprofit associated with the University of Oxford that helps companies execute and measure the impact of a four-day workweek”. The program aims to prove how accessible working a 4-day work week can be for organizations. With research showing that “92% of people support it and say it would improve their mental health and productivity”, it may be an option for your organization to explore.
While BlogTO published an April Fool’s joke article on the 4-day work week, many organizations are giving the idea of working a 4-day work week due consideration. Let’s unpack some common myths.
Myth 1: Only tech companies can adopt a 4-day work week
There are many profitable organizations that are able to manage—and thrive—during a 4-day work week. Companies such as social media scheduler Buffer, nonprofit Uncharted, and multinational conglomerate Panasonic have embraced working a 4-day work week. Across a variety of industries, these busy organizations have managed well.
Myth 2: Shutting down on Fridays is bad for business
Client support is a cornerstone of any business. To combat any potential timing issues, organizations may keep things flowing smoothly by allowing employees the choice of two schedules—Monday to Thursday or Tuesday to Friday—so that they can actually be open and working five days a week.
There can of course be challenges with deadlines if, for example, a client needs something on Friday afternoon, but the person who handles it works Monday to Thursday. Using applications like Google Docs can help so that multiple people—on different schedules of course—have access to the same information. Additionally, it’s important to ensure that clients have more than one point of contact, so that they aren’t sending emails to someone that won’t respond until Monday. Open communication and making sure projects are passed off appropriately will ensure that business availability (and work-life balance) remains a priority while working a 4-day work week.
Myth 3: Working fewer hours adds more stress
There aren’t many jobs (if any) that are completely stress-free, regardless of how many days a week you work at them. In fact, research shows that the majority of employees (94%) report experiencing stress at work.
However, research also shows that switching to a 4-day work week can result in a “20% gain in employee productivity, [...] a 27% reduction in work stress levels and a 45% increase in work-life balance.”
Working a 4-day work week may not be for everyone, but it can be a valuable tool when facing down the Great Resignation.
The 4-day work week allows employees to:
- Spend more time with their children/family/friends without using up vacation days.
- Swap days around on a given week so that when an important personal event is happening on a Wednesday, they can take that day off and work Friday instead. As many people are caregivers both to young children and/or ageing parents, this kind of flexibility is crucial.
- Attend essential medical/dental appointments outside of work time without having to take time off.
- Take an extra long weekend by working Monday to Thursday one week and Tuesday to Friday the next without using up vacation time.
Having a truly flexible workplace isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s the future. If you can’t offer your employees a 4-day work week, consider offering more flexibility to empower employees to choose when they complete their work (late starts/early finishes) and where (in the office/at home).