Businesses are trying to figure out the best way to get the most out of their employees to increase productivity and increase the general employee experience. Some are offering higher salaries; some are offering better benefits and vacation plans; some are beginning to question the number of hours and hours their employees work. One idea that’s gaining more and more popularity is the four-day workweek.
Some companies are lowering the total amount of hours worked while others are currently leaving the amount of hours worked exactly the same.
Whatever approach you think is ideal for improving productivity, we’re here to discuss whether the four-day workweek is ideal for your business, along with negatives and the positives of this idea.
Why businesses are considering the 4-day workweek
We will need to discuss the four-day workweek is such a big deal — and what your business should think about before making the switch — before we delve into the positives and negatives of this strategy.
When people are working harder and longer and not as they should be making as much money, they’re not finding the right balance between work and family. That balance is vital to increasing productivity at work.
Happy, refreshed employees have the ability to spend more time focusing on work rather than worrying about being isolated from their families, not doing enough to make ends meet, and just catching up on family responsibilities like grocery shopping, scheduling doctor’s appointments, and giving back to the community.
It’s not that they don’t need to work hard.
In fact, millennials have had a much harder time getting their lives on track due to high tuition costs, student loan debts, an ultra-competitive job market, lower salaries with fewer benefits, higher rent costs and high childcare costs.
So as to compensate for wages which haven’t increased with the expense of inflation, they are working longer hours and feeling obligated to do this because technology makes it easier to work from home and respond to emails.
Many businesses struggle to find a happy medium between hours worked and levels of productivity. Some research suggests that we can lower the number of hours worked to as low as three daily to boost productivity, but don’t expect that to happen any time soon.
The point of this research is to suggest that working more does not equate to greater productivity and that it may actually become an inhibitor.
The workweek has been tested to ascertain whether fewer hours in more flexibility, more family time and the office may cause a rise in productivity.
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Pros and cons of the 4-day workweek
Now that we know why you’re hearing more about the four-day workweek, we need to see that the four-day workweek won’t work for everyone, and is dependent on your team. Let us look at the pros and cons to see if this is the right move for your organization.
Less time commuting. Employees who just have to come in four days a week don’t have to spend as much time on the street or on public transport, which has a significant impact on stress. If your business sticks into a 40-hour workweek, this also means starting and leaving later, which can help your team avoid rush hour.
Save money on energy and heating. You can save a significant amount of money on energy and heating by having an extra day off, and that money may be put towards something else which helps to improve the overall productivity of the workplace.
Extra day with family. Weekends typically function as such: everybody’s playing catch-up on Saturday and preparing for the following week on Sunday. The two days wind up being just as busy as the weekdays, which leaves you will time to spend with your family.
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Fewer days off. When you’ve got an extra day off — either on Monday, Wednesday or Friday — you can use that day to catch up on all the responsibilities that get typically get pushed back to Saturday and Sunday, leaving the weekend open to concentrate on relaxing. There are tons of ways to utilize off.
Extended hours of office coverage with 10-hour workdays. Longer work days can translate to more opportunities for coverage between workers, as well as give workers more time to finish their work. So the difference would be minimal, many workers work more than eight hours a day in order to complete their work.
Job performance remains unaffected during 32-hour workweek. A New Zealand firm experimented with a 32-hour workweek and discovered that there was no change in productivity. This study combined with the research proves that it is not always necessary to be at work 5 days a week or 40 hours a day.
Better attendance. You’d think employees would take advantage of a longer weekend by taking off more, but studies show that that the extra day off is doing the contrary .
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The entire office needs to be involved to work easily. The four-day workweek is not right for everybody. Some jobs are than others, and some people prefer to work shorter hours over the span of five days than longer hours. You also run the risk of alienating your employees if some people decide to stay with a five-day workweek.
Ten hour workdays might not be practical. Studies show that productivity diminishes as the day continues, and that the brain can only be effective a few hours at a time, thus the hypothetical three-hour workday. Increasing the number of hours daily keep families away from each other longer and can have an adverse effect on productivity.
Extended hours will be difficult to acquire from daycares. An extra day off might be good for working mothers who wish to spend more time with their kids, but this also means they’ll need more coverage during the week. It’s not likely you’ll get a daycare offering hours when most businesses still operate five days a week.
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Regulations can get in the way. Again, the fact that your business is taking a chance with a four-day workweek doesn’t mean everyone else is. Some states, like California, require employers to cover their employees overtime after working eight hours within a day. You could wind up being made to pay your employees more, so be sure that you check any regulations if your company switches into a 10-hour work schedule.
Potentially reduce salaries. In order to cover the costs of losing a workday, companies are sometimes forced to reduce wages, which won’t help convince people that are already skeptical about the switch. From contemplating your business, it might also prevent possible hires.
More hiring may be required. If you have to hire more people to help make up for the increased flexibility, that is not going to do your business any favors. New hires require and it means adding to the payroll, so you have to factor additional salaries.
The final word on the 4-day workweek
The 40-hour week could be considered one of the first attempts at striking a balance between work and life at home. Before this, people were accustomed to working Saturdays and 10-hour days.
In 1908, a New England mill firm with a number of Jewish workers gave them an extra day off for the Sabbath rather than a half-day that forced everyone to make up for time lost on Sunday.
Henry Ford popularized the concept in the 1920s by giving employees Saturday and Sunday off in a bid to increase productivity. Since the 1920s, we’ve stuck with this particular work schedule irrespective of how effective it may or may not be.
There’s still more research to be performed concerning the four-day workweek, but so far, it is not as crazy a concept as it may seem at first.
Trial runs have been shown to be positive and some companies are currently making the changes permanent. Other studies show that it can cause more problems if it is not implemented. There’s no reason not to give it a chance, if you believe your staff would benefit from a weekend.