Back in the 1930s, economists projected that technological and productivity improvements would make a 15-hour workweek possible in 40-60 years. Yet, here we are in 2022, sticking with the traditional 40 hours.
The pandemic has reignited the debates regarding productivity and the importance of work-life balance. Moreover, many companies have been experimenting with introducing the 4-day workweek and yielding interesting results.
Thus, in a study by Henley Business School, over 66% of employers who implemented a shortened workweek reported a reduction in operating costs. They also found that flexible working hours helped them attract the right talent.
Microsoft Japan also saw a reduction in costs of more than 23% due to fewer office hours.
Perpetual Guardian, a trust management company in New Zealand, announced a 20% increase in employee productivity.
All these companies also said that their employees became less stressed and happier overall.
So, should you put the work hours on a diet in your company? Let’s look at the potential 4-day workweek benefits.
Benefit 1: Better Work Gets Done in Less Time
Numerous studies have confirmed that employees tend to spend up to four hours per day actually working. The rest of the time goes spent on meetings, reading the news, surfing the internet, and other time-killing activities.
With fewer hours of work, people have to structure their day differently. That leads to fewer meetings, less micromanaging, and a decrease in tedious tasks. Also, since workers have more time to recover, they arrive to work with more energy and focus. It results in fewer mistakes and better overall productivity.
In some cases, employees who worked fewer hours had been reported to take fewer days off sick. That means they spent more time concentrating on their tasks than they did with a standard 9 to 5 schedule.
All in all, a shorter workweek seems to reduce the quantity of the common time wasters, such as:
- Responsibility shifting for problems;
- Administrative works;
- Long meetings;
- Responding emails.
Instead, compressing long hours encourages to work smarter, not harder, resulting in:
- More efficient time management (time blocking, day theming, task batching, etc.);
- Less absenteeism;
- Fewer missed deadlines;
- Higher-quality work;
- Lower employee turnover.
Benefit 2: Cost Reduction
Many businesses that switched to a 4-day workweek have found it reduced their variable costs. Keeping the office closed for an additional day can cut spending on heating and energy. Office replenishment will also happen less frequently since supplies will be used less throughout the day.
Next, giving employees an extra day off enables them to attend to their personal commitments without taking paid leave. This way, the money remains on the company’s balance.
Another cost-saving benefit of the four-day workweek is the reduction in overheads. In its turn, it results in less spending on benefits and potential savings on salary.
It works even for non-profit organizations. For instance, public schools in Hawaii changed their workweek to four days to save on substitute teachers.
Employees also tend to spend less on healthcare due to having an extra day to recover. Even more, they save on transportation costs and have one day less to pay for childcare.
Benefit 3: Better Work-Life Balance
The pandemic encouraged the development of the “always-on” culture which made juggling home and work-related responsibilities complicated. It resulted in dissatisfaction at work, poor performance, and low morale. Even worse, discontented workers tended to lower the overal motivation in a team.
In an attempt to improve the situation, some companies turned to outsourcing. They hired external specialists to complete the most tedious tasks — the dedicated software development team model has become increasingly popular thanks to this tendency.
However, trials in different countries showed that a 4-day workweek resolves all these concerns. Employees get more time to recover from stress, handle family care, work out, visit a doctor, run errands, etc., without sacrificing their pay or career.
Even though workers had less time to complete tasks, they felt more in charge of their work and personal roles. They became more satisfied with life in general. In fact, most respondents said the shorter workweek made them more productive. They also felt less stressed even though they had shorter deadlines for tasks.
Additionally, some people say they got more time to develop new skills they could apply at work.
As a result, companies enjoy higher employee engagement, which leads to proactivity and better productivity.
Benefit 4: Increases Employee Retention
Reduced hours make an employer very attractive to current employees and potential hires. The recent survey by Qualtrics found that over 80% of employees would feel more loyal to their company if they had a 4-day workweek.
Respondents also pointed out that flexible hours were also desirable. Therefore, combined with the right management practices, a shorter workweek could do wonders for your company’s retention rates and quality of new hires.
A decrease in employee retention, in its turn, results in spending less on recruitment and training. It also helps productivity since employees are better engaged in their work. Another side benefit is knowledge retention as experienced workers stay with the organization.
Finally, employee turnover can be contagious as people start wondering why and questioning their own loyalty to the company. Hence, satisfied employees provide better customer support and strengthen the environment.
How to Implement a 4-day Workweek in Your Office?
1. Establish the Best Change Plan for Your Team to a 4-day Workweek
To reap all the benefits of a 4-day workweek and avoid confusion, your company should redesign the way it works. Here are some ideas on how to prepare for a shorter week mode:
Launch a pilot program:
It is a temporary trial to test the feasibility of the new idea. After it’s finished, you can collect feedback, check metrics, and decide whether the new schedule is beneficial.
A pilot program is also an excellent opportunity to introduce new productivity-boosting techniques, such as time blocking, and identify time wastes.
It is a slow and steady shift from a traditional schedule to a 4-day workweek. This method can help you avoid potential impacts and mitigate risks.
To implement a gradual transition, reduce employee hours by 5-10% each week or month until you reach the goal.
You may find out that many time-management techniques don’t work well for the gradual transition since they don’t offer enough flexibility. So, you might have to introduce changes to your productivity tracking policy until the switch is made.
This method is suitable if you are confident in success and have a detailed plan for employee work organization, compensation, and policies. You should also ensure that the majority of employees support the change. In the case of abrupt change, it might be helpful to introduce rigid scheduling formats. Time blocking will eliminate distractions and help your employees complete their tasks faster.
2. Establish Clear Expectations for Targets and Goals for a 4-day Workweek
The major benefit of a 4-day workweek is that it is the opposite of the “always on” mentality. That means you must set clear expectations with your team regarding their schedule.
For example, your employees can enjoy a clear boundary, such as no emailing/messages on Friday-Sunday. Alternatively, you can allow them to go flexible and decide on their own if they need to work some hours on Friday to finish their work or have a day off.
To help with focus, consider introducing day theming. Paired with time blocking, it encourages work without interruptions and creates a consistent schedule.
Day theming also allows to manage people’s expectations better and enhances the benefits of a 4-day workweek.
3. Reduce Time-wasting Meetings and Tasks
Time-tracking is an effective way to identify time-wasting activities. However, be careful not to turn time tracking into one more task to squeeze into 4-day workweeks. Ensure that your chosen tracking tool is easy to use. Here are some popular apps:
Task batching also works well for 4-day workweeks as it helps to complete tasks most effectively. Grouping similar tasks will help employees keep focus and improve productivity. Task batching also decreases confusion and eliminates the switching tax. Some people even say that task batching helped them prevent burnout.
Here are the top apps to help with task-batching:
- Google Calendar
4. Get Feedback from Your Employees
The switch to a shorter workweek requires collaboration with all your departments. To reap all the 4-day workweek benefits, check in with your employees and ask their opinion.
You may find that the chosen time tracking and other productivity improvement methods don’t give the expected result, and you should discuss alternative ideas. Anyway, having your staff involved in the process will increase their motivation and the chance of success.
Further, consider working with all departments to create a policy for the 4-day workweek in your company. This way, you can ensure the guidelines are fair to every employee.
Finally, you must ensure that the policy is clear to everyone and that they understand the expected benefits.
Is a 4-day Workweek a Good Fit For Your Company?
Many companies have been enjoying the 4-day workweek benefits such as increased productivity and better work-life balance. However, the shorter schedule has its drawbacks, too.
For once, it might not be a one-size-fits-all solution. Besides, you’ll need to have an established time tracking routine to succeed. And it certainly won’t help a toxic environment.
On the other hand, if you’re determined to implement a 4-day workweek, you should be able to answer the following questions:
- What is the main goal of changing the schedule?
- How will you measure effectiveness?
- How will you maintain employee effectiveness?
- Will your customers approve?
- Should all employees switch to the new schedule?
And if the cons of the reduced hours outweigh the pros for your business, there are still other ways to help increase employee satisfaction and retention.
Benefits of Implementing a 4-Day Workweek
- Better work gets done in less time
With fewer hours of work, there are fewer meetings, less micromanaging, and a decrease in tedious tasks. Also, workers arrive to work with more energy and focus, which results in fewer mistakes and better overall productivity.
- Cost reduction
Keeping the office closed for an additional day can cut spending on heating, energy and supplies. Giving employees an extra day off enables them to attend to their personal commitments without taking paid leave. This way, the money remains on the company’s balance.
- Better work-life balance
Employees get more time to recover from stress, handle family care, work out, visit a doctor, run errands, etc., without sacrificing their pay or careers. Workers have said that a shorter workweek made them more productive. They also felt less stressed even though they had shorter deadlines for tasks.
- Increases employee retention
Reduced hours make an employer very attractive to current employees and potential hires. Combined with the right management practices, a shorter workweek could do wonders for your company’s retention rates and the quality of new hires. satisfied employees provide better customer support and strengthen the environment.