A recent CNBC article shares findings from an Ernst & Young study that suggests 40 percent of companies have implemented or have begun implementing a four-day workweek. While employees may enjoy this flexible office benefit, many employers are concerned the shortened workweek will mean lost productivity. Let’s first look at why a four-day workweek is a growing trend in U.S. companies, whether or not your company should follow suit, and other flexible benefits you can offer employees to increase engagement and retention.
Four-Day Workweeks: a Growing U.S. Trend
The notion of four-day workweeks for skilled workers is a relatively new phenomenon in the U.S. But many European countries, along with New Zealand and Australia, have been trialing the concept with success. Even Japan’s government has recommended it as a national policy.
According to the Four Day Week Global Campaign, the premise is simple: workers get 100% of their pay for 80% of their working hours while trying to keep their output and productivity at the same level as before.
Depending on the company and the industry, employees work Monday through Thursday and have Fridays off. Other companies instituting four-day workweeks allow employees to choose their extra day off or have a company-wide policy of a different third day off, such as Monday or Wednesday.
As a small business leader, you may be skeptical. How can workers achieve the same level of productivity in shorter working increments?
Employees in European, Australian, and New Zealand four-day workweek trials reported initially working overtime on their first days, returning to work to make up for the day off. But many employees also realized that they could concentrate their focus to be more productive in their shortened workweeks.
Many employees reported they eliminated distractions: by silencing their phones, only listening to instrumental music while they worked, and working in coworking spaces instead of cafes.
- The growing increase in four-day workweeks in the U.S. comes after the mass resignations of employees over the last two years, as employees realized they wanted work and careers that gave them higher purpose or more flexibility in how and where they worked.
- Another reason for the upsurge in four-day workweek companies is that leaders recognize that employee well-being is far from a “nice to have.” The pandemic’s knock-on effects have led to increased anxiety, depression, and burnout. By offering employees the opportunity to have three days off, employees have more flexibility and freedom for self-care and enriching personal hobbies and pursuits. They may return to work with renewed energy and higher productivity.
Should Your Small Business Offer a Four-Day Workweek?
For many small business leaders, the notion of changing the traditional five-day workweek can be challenging. After all, why change if a five-day workweek was good for workers for the last 100+ years?
You may want to consider changing because five-day workweeks often wear your best, most talented employees out. According to the American Psychological Association, burnout and stress are at all-time highs across professions. Your company may have shifted to an all-remote or hybrid workplace. While your employees may love working from home, it is not without tradeoffs.
- Many employees have difficulty establishing work and home boundaries: there’s always one more email to send and one more text to reply to before shutting down for the day. Your company may have needed an “all-hands” approach to getting work done during peak periods during the pandemic. But that hyper-productive mindset is hard to wind down. As a result, your employees may find it difficult to unplug, even after you encourage them to care for themselves.
- Companies that report making four-day workweeks work suggest having administrative support when employees are away from their desks or office on the third day off. This helps to ensure that client and business needs are addressed promptly.
Speak with your leaders and have an open and candid conversation: can the work get done in a compressed workweek? Even if you decide not to follow the growing trend of a four-day workweek, you may find there are efficiencies in how your company works so that your productivity and output increase while giving your employees other flexible benefits to help support their lives and remain connected and engaged with your company.
If you decide not to offer this benefit, or cannot, consider other approaches to entice great talent to work for your company and to retain great employees. Improving the work experience itself can provide a significant positive impact on emotional work/life balance for employees.
- Ensure your culture and operating structure rewards employees for working efficiently and productively
- Create opportunities for employees to innovate and provide input to improve processes and outcomes
- Train and support your management teams, ensuring that you develop their active listening and problem-solving skills to remove obstacles and challenges that inhibit employees’ productivity and job satisfaction
- Simplify! Ensure that unnecessary distractions and overly taxing processes are eliminated where possible.
Interested in other current employment trends? Click the link to view the recent blog: Keep Your Company Values Current to Keep Your Culture Thriving or check back for more on human resources, payroll, insurance, and benefits.