More employers than ever are realizing that the benefits of a 4-day workweek are real and documented. The benefits extend beyond the happiness that employees feel at having a 3-day weekend every weekend. Amazon, as well as a variety of other companies, are testing out a shortened workweek and discovering that a reduction in hours doesn't translate into a commensurate reduction in productivity. Here are just some of the ways in which businesses are finding success with the 4-day workweek.
Competitive Recruitment and Hiring
Many companies are realizing that, in a saturated job market, it is harder than you might expect to recruit and retain the best talent in the business. However, with the ability to recruit specifically for job seekers who want a 4-day work week, especially when options are available to post a job for free, you can attract a competitive pool specifically by offering this benefit. Many high-functioning workers find that, rather than more money, what they need is more time: time with family, time to manage their household affairs, and time to enjoy work-life balance. Thus, rather than maximizing their income, these high-achieving workers are seeking companies with progressive policies on workweek structure.
When you encounter a high performer and worry that your budget won't be adequate to compete with other offers this person will receive, offering flexibility in work schedule and creating a position for fewer hours per week can be very attractive. Getting great talent is half the battle as a business, and this is another tool in your toolkit for talent acquisition.
Boosted Productivity From Motivated Workers
One of the main concerns from employers is that there will be less productivity in a workplace that has 30-hour-a-week workers, but the data just doesn't seem to show this as true. When an employer in New Zealand opted to pay workers for 5 days a week while having them work only 4, an effective promotion, they were eager to prove that they could achieve just as much (indeed, more!) in 4 days as they previously accomplished in 5. The truth is that all workdays have mild inefficiencies due to human needs, but an unmotivated individual will accomplish tasks at a much slower rate than a motivated person.
When workers are seeking to prove just how productive they can be, for instance by hitting their targets on Thursday and having Friday off, the motivation level goes up and everyone is more energized at work. A 4-day workweek as a perk for high productivity can be a powerful incentive to perform efficiently.
Low Turnover From Employees Who Have Work-Life Balance
As yet, a relatively small percentage of employers have taken the 4-day workweek and turned it into the motivational tool it can be for employees. This is to your advantage as an employer, because employees who love the 4-day workweek will have strong loyalty ties to your company as long as it is hard to find a similar arrangement elsewhere. However, the opposite will be true as well when 4-day workweeks become a normal convention: you do not want to be the last employer requiring a 5-day workweek when others in your industry have realized the recruitment gains, productivity gains, and low-turnover gains available with this workplace perk.
Harvard Business Review reports that as many as 20% of high performers are at risk for burnout; when employers behave in a shortsighted manner, they allow excellent workers to work 60 or 70 hour weeks, which eventually leads to a massive problem with workaholic behaviours, burnout, and eventual departure from the company in order to escape these situations. Long-term thinkers see a high-performing employee and think, "how can I make their experience here so good that they have no desire to leave?" In many cases, this means offering them not only a chance of work-life balance, but also a corporate culture that prizes time off and outside interests. It's very difficult to praise work-life balance in one breath while approving 7-day-a-week overtime to complete projects ahead of schedule. Instead, keep your high-performing employees longer, take advantage of their growing skills and experience, and have them work a shorter week.
Flexibility Breeds Easier Scheduling
Another fear when employers begin to offer the 30-hour workweek is that they will somehow encounter a miserable problem of "coverage" related to scheduling difficulties. What if, for instance, the person that a client wants to speak with isn't in the office on that day? There are many concerns related to this situation, but there are some simple truths that point to the fact that flexible work schedules actually make scheduling better, not worse:
- Many companies already work with part-timers or changing shift schedules each week, making it clear that such a policy is possible.
- Companies that employ 4-day-a-week workers often simply have an "A schedule" and a "B schedule," meaning that some people have one workweek day off and others have a different workweek day off. The impact of having slightly different people in the office every day is minimal, especially when they make it clear when each person's "weekday off" is.
- Vacation PTO and sick leave are habitual parts of the workweek that already interrupt scheduling; when employees have more prearranged time off, they can schedule their own medical appointments as well as those of their dependents on days that they will be out of the office anyway. There are fewer schedule interruptions when people have plenty of time off to get to the courthouse, the doctor's office, or the auto mechanic shop.
- Given the many demands on a person during a workday, most offices benefit from more robust communication about availability and in-office hours. The 4-day workweek offers a good reason to revamp and bolster the communication surrounding when and where people will be available for drop-in conversations or phone calls, and when they will be out of the office or unavailable. Creating systems in programs like Slack or G-Suite that inform all parties of each employee's schedule can help everyone perform more efficiently and effectively.
As you can see, the benefits of a 4-day workweek are substantial, and much of the logistics behind implementing this structure will pay for itself through greater productivity and high-quality employee retention. It is the right time to get on board to truly maximize your business by offering 4-day workweeks to your employees.