The Benefits and Challenges of a 4-Day Work Week for Your Employees
The labor force has changed.
Earlier this year, a colleague shared that he was seeking someone to help him. Familiar with the ins and outs of the job, I shared that I knew someone who I thought would be perfect but would only want to work four days a week. “Absolutely not!” he said. “I am not going to entertain any ‘alternate’ work agreement. I want the new person to work right here, in this office – beside me.” He waved his hands and made air-quotes as he spoke.
I checked in with him recently. He is on the hunt again. He hired someone in February, but his new hire left to accept another position that allowed her to not only work-from-home (WFH) but also to keep a four-day work week (4DWW) all for the same money. He was speechless. Like many employers, he is learning that adhering to a traditional five-day work week can come with risks.
Are you an employer who is experiencing hiring challenges? (I haven’t met anyone, recently, who isn’t.) Are you re-thinking your hiring strategy? Have you considered how the job might be reconfigured as a 4DWW position or a WFH position? You may want to try. Here are some
things to consider.
It is all about balance! After years of watching the baby-boomer generation manage 50+ hour work weeks, todays labour force is not content to work long hours for the promise of something more. No long motivated purely by money, they seek flexibility and balance knowing that doing so will be better for them and the people around them.
About reduced absenteeism. While the 4DWW allows workers more time to re-energize it also gives them time to deal with their personal appointments - dental, mental, medical, physio, and vehicle – on their own time. As an employer you stand to benefit as 4DWW employees do not call in sick as much.
Yes, productivity can go up. It seems counterintuitive, but the shorter work emphasizes that if you are at work, you are working and available for meetings. It is this element that most
employers really appreciate. The shorter work week allows happier employees to work more
efficiently. In short, when they are on the clock, they are getting more done.
Becoming an employer of choice. The biggest reason to adopt a four-day work week is that it can help reposition you as an employer. It is a powerful recruiting tool. Since, for many employees, it is about lifestyle not salary, a 4DWW may have candidates looking at you in a
more positive way.
Workload management. This one is critical. Research reveals that many supervisors struggle
with 4DWW and WFH employees. Often, they turn into micro-managers which only breeds
discontent. Supervisors find it challenging to manage a 4DWW. To address this, leaders and
owners may need to invest in staff training for their supervisors. Obviously, many point out that with one less day to complete tasks, employees may need to work longer hours.
What about the client? Sure, the 4DWW may not work in some settings. However, with a
strong system for tracking customers, it might be hard to imagine a situation where the 4DWW is completely off the table. If you treat your employees right, they will treat the customer right.
What about communication and collaboration? A four-day work week may make it more
difficult for employees to communicate and collaborate effectively but how well is your team
communicating now? By focusing on improving your communications, you may find that the
moving to a 4DWW is not as challenging as you once thought.
What about Salary? Finally, implementing a four-day work week may affect salary and benefits. Your HR department will be challenged to arrive at a way to fairly compensate
employees for a shorter work week. We suggest that your HR people work to keep up to date with others in their profession to see what best practices are being touted.
As you can see, there are many things to consider when re-configuring a job and changing a
position. It could mean jumping to a 32-hour work week (4 x 8hrs) or it could also mean a
compressed 40-hour work week (4 x 10), or a 30-hour work week (5 x 6hrs) built around a
shorter day. There are obvious challenges, so don’t rush in. However, with the right strategies in place, a 4DWW might become an important tool attracting and keeping top talent and improving overall workplace satisfaction.
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