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The Covid Pandemic forced businesses worldwide to rethink how work is done. And a virtual workforce emerged – that employees loved.
Employees loved the freedom and flexibility of working away from the office. This model worked through most of the pandemic. However, some businesses are asking employees to return to the office.
And employees are not happy about it. However, the post-pandemic economy has forced many large companies to lay off employees to adjust to an inflationary environment that has changed the purchasing power of the average American.
This reality has been a wake-up call for employees, and they are changing their position of demanding to continue to work from home.
There is a new trend in businesses; many are testing a four-day workweek.
This movement has potential upsides for businesses. However, there are some disadvantages for companies.
Let’s explore both.
Advantages of a Four-Day WorkWeek
Mental health issues have significantly increased since the pandemic causing employers to explore ways to help employees balance the load.
A four-day workweek allows employees another day to manage home responsibilities, care for loved ones, or make doctor’s appointments.
This extra day can help employees relieve the stress of working full-time, raising a family, or caring for other loved ones.
Save on Transportation Costs
The cost of gasoline has risen since the pandemic, which increased the cost of an employee’s commute.
A four-day workweek can help employees save on transportation costs while reducing traffic congestion and carbon emissions.
Fewer vehicles on the road can contribute to a more sustainable environment. Another benefit is the time an employee saves by not commuting to work.
Save on Office Costs
Every business is a little different, but fewer people in the office can save on heating and cooling costs.
More Productive Employees
Happy employees are productive employees. Companies that have piloted a four-day workweek have found increased employee productivity.
This may result from employees being interested in getting more done in a shorter week or employees who have longer days and can accomplish more.
With fewer work hours, employees are incentivized to try and eliminate distractions and work more efficiently by prioritizing their task list.
Pursuit of Hobbies
Encourage employees to have interests outside of work. One less workday can allow employees to pursue hobbies or entrepreneurial endeavors.
Pursuing personal passions can help with personal development, employee engagement, and mental health issues.
An extra day off allows employees the flexibility to indulge in self-care. Investing in oneself can improve health and well-being, leading to a happier and more productive workforce.
Adequate sleep, relaxation, and time for personal activities can also help to avoid job burnout.
Shorter work weeks show employees that the organization cares for their well-being and work-life balance.
When the model works, employees will be happier in their roles, resulting in higher engagement levels. Engaged employees are loyal and can be retained for a longer period of time.
Recruitment and Retention
A four-day work schedule is considered a perk to most employees. Use this work model to help recruit new employees and to retain your valuable workforce.
This work model demonstrates the organization’s commitment to the well-being of employees and sets the organization apart from its competitors.
Disadvantages of a Four-Day WorkWeek
Not Applicable in All Jobs
It is simply a fact that not all jobs can reduce the hours to four days. Jobs that deal directly with consumers are those that require consistent staffing.
Or perhaps your business operates a 24-hour service. Hiring enough people to cover all the shifts may be difficult in these situations.
I worked ten-hour shifts for a period of time. While the extra day off was great, those last two hours of the day seemed to be difficult (at least for me).
Employees should self-select into a compressed work schedule with the understanding that longer days can make it challenging to maintain focus on the tasks at hand.
Fatigue is the biggest culprit of longer workdays.
Four-day work weeks mean employees must be on the clock for longer hours. And, if employees are not paid for their lunch break, a ten-hour workday could realistically be an eleven-hour commitment.
Add in commute time, and your employees could be away from home for twelve hours. This is obviously employee and job specific but needs to be considered when compressing a work week.
Four-Day Work Week Policy Considerations
A transition from a traditional to a compressed schedule should be considered carefully.
Take the time to think through those policies you must have in place for a smooth transition.
Schedule Days Off
The policy should state which days the employees will be off work. It should also clarify if it is a fixed day of the week (for example, Mondays) or if employee preference can be considered.
Be clear about this before implementing a change to avoid confusion.
Define the new hours of operation and clarify which days employees are expected to work.
Some organizations allow flexibility in work hours by providing a window of time when employees are expected to be in the office.
For instance, employees can choose a ten-hour shift between 6:00 am and 6:00 p.m.
Consider any changes to compensation for salaried and hourly employees. Help employees understand if salaries will be adjusted and how overtime hours will be calculated.
For instance, many businesses pay overtime after eight hours of work. A ten-hour work day may necessitate a change that pays overtime only after 40 hours.
Every job is different; not every job typically qualifies for a condensed workweek schedule.
For instance, a receptionist may need to be available during office hours from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, which makes it necessary to be in the office five days.
Create employee goals and develop performance metrics that align with organizational objectives.
Communicate expectations to employees so they clearly understand how they will be assessed while working the new schedule and revised workdays.
Workplace communication is vital in any environment, particularly when a schedule change occurs.
Create guidelines for communication and share expectations of how and when employees should communicate.
Create service standards defining how employees respond to emails, internal communications, and team meetings.
Things will be different with a new work schedule. Spend time with employees and managers and address issues that may arise during the transition.
Communicate changes to workflows and internal processes and reinforce project deadlines as you adapt to the new schedule.
Commit To Evaluation
Changing to a new condensed work week is a significant transition. Monitor the change by evaluating its effectiveness and employee adaptations.
Assess employee performance and monitor productivity levels to ensure more, not less, is getting done.
This Is Not for Everyone
This model may not work for every business, every industry, or every job type. Take the time to consider the pros and cons of such a significant schedule change to ensure your particular business model can accommodate this type of transition.
Before you begin, be sure to talk to employees, customers, and an HR professional to develop a program that employees love and improves how work gets done.