We’ve already witnessed what no one would have considered probable or possible back in early 2020: remote work not just as mainstream in America, but in the world. Another trend has been quietly gaining momentum: a four day work week. Is this really feasible, or just another fad, like those horrible virtual happy hours that are thankfully no longer with us?
When we are talking about a four day work week, we aren’t talking about what some companies have already been doing for many years: squeezing 40 hours into 4 days instead of 5. We’re talking about cutting 4-8 hours from the expected 40 hour work schedule with no change in pay, which is an effective raise for everyone when this goes into effect for the first time at a business.
With employees knowing that they have an extra day for the weekend every week, not only does morale improve, but so does productivity. A British bank CEO recently penned a Washington Post editorial not just touting the increases in morale and productivity, but he’s also seen: “a reduction in recruitment costs, a fall in unwanted staff attrition, lower absences because of sickness, and…higher customer satisfaction.”
He concludes the piece by pointing out the interesting and still unknown possibilities that technology like ChatGPT is offering the marketplace and concludes that some of those advances can include discarding the need for five day work weeks.
How to Get Started
So let’s say you’re willing to give this a try at your company. What should you do?
Firstly, you’ll want to make sure that your onboarding and training is the best it can be. If people aren’t getting the training they need, there’s less chance for them to do more work in less time.
Secondly, you’ll need to look at automations. Are you also maxing those out?
Often, just in the process of preparing for a change in the work week companies have found buffer sitting in these two areas.
But you’ll also want to look at how employees work and give them assists. One manufacturing company makes sure that their teams have deep work blocks in which they take no emails, phone calls, or instant messages through programs like Slack or Microsoft Teams. Companies can do their part to assist employees to work at work so they can be at home when they’re home (instead of checking emails).
It Takes Time
As with any business process, you’re going to want to measure, get feedback, and iterate. Employees will be highly motivated to hit the milestones necessary to keep what is not at all a norm in the working world. It’s also a chance for employers to ask the long-overdue question: is productivity the single most important value in our business? Or might morale, happiness, and retention be at least as valuable, or taken together, be more valuable?
It’s a question that deserves a better answer than, “that’s how we’ve always done it” or worse, “it’ll never work.”