Working one day less per week, making it a 4-day workweek, would you say no to that? Probably not. Not surprisingly, 92% of U.S. workers are in favour of a 4-day workweek. Heading in this direction sounds too good to be true, and it might be. There are multiple success stories, but there are also quite some challenges for organisations. In this blog, we will discuss them and pave the way towards a better work-life and organisational success.
Well-being and health
One of the key examples of the potential 4-day workweek was an experiment in Iceland. The most important finding for employers: productivity remained the same or improved in the majority of workplaces, researchers said. But there were of course also many effects on the employees. They felt less stress and risk of burn-out and felt their health and work-life balance improved. They spend more time with their family, on their hobbies, or completing household chores. Altogether, lower risk of burn-out, improved health, and generally happy employees also have positive effects on the organisation. As we showed in this whitepaper, this can save a lot of costs and improve engagement and productivity.
Doing work more effectively
The idea is that employees can do their work more effectively and experience less strain. This makes sense if you think about the fact that the average employee spends two hours and 53 minutes each day working productively (according to Vouchercloud). This fact is supported by a 2018 survey (of 2722 employees across eight nations) by the Workforce Institute. They found that nearly half of the full-time workers said it should take fewer than five hours each day to do their job if they worked uninterrupted. There are a few frontrunner companies like Buffer and Wanderlust who have adopted it effectively and see the great effect. For example, at Wanderlust, applications are up 800% from last year and Wanderlust has around a 98% retention rate. Moreover, last year’s revenue soared 61% year over year, according to the company. But to get scientific results, and figure out if it works for everybody, there is currently a global trial running of a so-called 100-80-100 model. It is supervised and guided by researchers from Cambridge. Workers will receive 100% of their pay for 80% of the time if they maintain 100% productivity. You can still sign up for it.
Attract and retain
In the Guardian, Mark Downs, the chief executive of the Royal Society of Biology, said the decision to trial the 4-day week was partly a response to an “incredibly competitive” labour market. “It’s about trying to do more to be a good, innovative employer to attract and retain our current staff,” he said. “These sorts of possibilities make a massive difference. It’s great for everybody.” This feeling is confirmed by the fact that 63% of businesses found it easier to attract and retain talent with a 4-day workweek, according to the 4-day-week-initiative.
Working towards the future
In many ways, the 4-day workweek fits with many evolving developments. One development is the growing abilities of Artificial intelligence (AI). Smart software and robotics can increasingly support us with our work, and embracing this could make it possible to work fewer hours. Secondly, working 4 days a week has typically a lower carbon footprint which is needed to fight climate change. A trial conducted by the US state of Utah for government employees showed a significant ecological impact of reducing the average workweek from five to four days using a compressed work schedule. Altogether, the Utah government estimated that it could save 12,000 metric tons of CO2, the equivalent of removing 2,300 cars off the road for one year, simply by working one day less a week. Lastly, we see an increasing need for flexible and dynamic companies. The goal of the 4-day workweek is to give people and companies more freedom to arrange their work time, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Labor Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne.
But of course, where there is hope, there are also challenges. Buffer (a social media company) is one of the first fully adopters of the 4-day workweek. In an interview by CNBC, they shared these challenges. First, it was challenging to decide which day to take off. Secondly, with fewer days of work, challenges arose with the availability of the customer service department (which they solved by rotating shifts). Lastly, getting the same work done in 4 days was also a challenge. So we cut down on meeting hours, started to work asynchronously, and worked more intentionally. Altogether, it required a big shift in mindset. But now it’s rather the discussion of “how do we make this work for us?” instead of “should we continue this experiment?”. Working 4 days a week is permanent: “This is what we’re doing indefinitely.”
At Buffer, they used an employee survey and found that 91% of their workers were happier and more productive with a 4-day workweek. Altogether, it shows that it’s important to know how your employees are doing in regard to their stress, productivity and well-being. Working 4-days while trying to sustain productivity has effects on all of them. Tracking these effects by frequently surveying your employees makes you able to make the right decisions and understand the consequences of your actions when going through such a change. At Measuremen, we have our service Habital that makes you able to do this.
The 4-day workweek sounds like a promising strategy for both employees and for organisational goals. Nevertheless, as with any innovation, there are also challenges to overcome. And it’s especially important to realise that every organisation is different. Your sales strategy might fit perfectly or completely miss the fit for the 4-day workweek. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s possible or not. The last question raised might be the most important one if you are considering going in this direction. Ask yourself “how do we make this work for us?” But if you decide to go for it, it’s wise to be aware of the effects on the well-being of your employees and the productivity of your organisation while going through the process towards an organisation with a 3-day weekend.