4 days work week- will it be a norm?
The employees at Microsoft, Japan, delivered a 40% increase in productivity during their four days workweek trial period. The CEO of Microsoft, Japan, said- “I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20% less working time. Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot.”
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Since March 2020, there have been a lot of changes in our lives, personal and professional, well, for most of us. From going to the office to setting up an office in our homes, from having water cooler conversations to chatting and meeting virtually, from having office outings to virtual events, and for some of us, going back to everything after a year.
Another conversation that has now begun in various offices across the globe- four days work week. Many companies have started experimenting with it, and some have even accepted their new work culture. With technology taking over most of our work, requiring us to monitor and oversee the work of computers, honestly, it is feasible not just to think but adapt the concept. But what exactly is a four days work week? There are two approaches that companies have been taking- reduced hours, same pay (8 hours for four days), and shorter week, same pay (10 hours for four days). Different companies have been experimenting with the two approaches based on their field of work, and the responses so far have been pretty great.
In New Zealand, a real-estate planning company became one of the first few companies to adopt a four days work week back in 2019. The companies mainly were opting for the shorter workweek; Perpetual Guardian, a company with 240+ employees, decided to opt for reduced hours, i.e., 8 hours of work for four days of the week for the same pay. Contrary to what people believed at that time, this experiment showed significant results. Employees had a better work-life balance, job satisfaction and delivered more creativity and efficiency.
Since then, many companies in New Zealand, Australia, Germany, and Scandinavia have adopted the four-day workweek. But the discussion has become increasingly popular this year post the lockdown phase. Considering the major shift we have all had, companies globally are experimenting with the possibility of a four days work week apart from the permanent remote work situation. And if you want to think about whether you should give it a shot at your company, here are some pros and cons of four days work week to consider before taking it up for discussion.
Contrary to what one might think when the topic of a four days workweek increases productivity. The increased productivity is a result of employees not feeling overworked and having a healthy work-life balance. The employees at Microsoft, Japan, delivered a 40% increase in productivity during their four days workweek trial period. The CEO of Microsoft, Japan, Takuya Hirano, said- “I want employees to think about and experience how they can achieve the same results with 20% less working time. Work a short time, rest well and learn a lot.”
Better employee engagement
If your employees are overwhelmed with the amount of work or work hours they are pulling through, it is safe to say that innovation at work will be challenging to come by. You must have seen how productive and focused your employees are after a long weekend. Imagine it happening every week! Your employees will be effective and engaged at work and wouldn’t switch to a different company. So, if you think about it’s a win-win situation for you as an employer.
Well, this benefit is just self-explanatory. If you are one of the companies that have resumed working from the office post the lockdown phase, this is the perfect cost-cutting method. If your employees aren’t working an additional day, you’ll end up cutting the cost on the usual expenses like- electricity, office supplies, and cafeteria costs. Also, your employees save money by having to commute to work one less day. So, a shorter workweek is not just good for you but will reduce your carbon footprint across the globe.
Improved mental health
In the present time, where everything is going haywire, people are stressed more than usual and are dealing with way more health issues than ever. A study conducted by Mental Health Charity Mind in England showed that one in every six individuals admitted to experiencing common mental health. And one in five people has taken an off day because of it. But when the employees get a three day weekend instead of two, they get a chance to unravel and be calmer at work.
These pros might immediately make you consider adopting a shorter workweek for your work and jump to discuss the idea with your board. But we suggest you hold on for a moment and think about the cons of a four-day workweek. After all, every coin has a flip side to it. So, what are the probable drawbacks of introducing a shorter workweek?
Customer satisfaction may suffer
Whether you are a B2B or a B2C company, your company runs because of your customers. So, if you consider choosing four days workweek, you will be unavailable for your customers for an additional day. The shortened workweek experiment that started in Utah in 2007 was stopped in 2011 because of this reason. Even though the experiment saved the state $1.8million in energy costs, the shorter week resulted in unsatisfied customers. All the work and benefits had no value because the customers kept complaining about not being able to reach out on Fridays.
Incorrect implementation can cause harm
Any change can bite you in the back if there is a loophole in implementing despite having a long list of benefits. If you decide on picking four days workweek for your company, ensure that it is a short week instead of a compressed week, i.e., same work hours but in four days. Compressing the week would mean that your employees are putting in more hours daily, doing more harm than good. It will result in stressed employees instead of calm and focused employees, which will make them consider other opportunities sooner than you think. So, you have to be extremely careful with the implementation by considering the customers and what will be the healthiest option for your employees.
Not for all businesses
Just like the work from home option, four days workweek is not every industries cup of tea. And it’s not just about the implementation of a short workweek but the sheer fact that some industries require 24*7 input. Imagine a hospital shutting down entirely for three days; what will you do in case of emergency? And not just that, think of a hotel or a restaurant considering three days off, how will it stay in business? However, these are extreme possibilities. But even if they were to give three days off in shifts, it can and will result in a lot of administrative work for ensuring the business runs smoothly.
To decide on whether or not your company will transition to a short workweek or not, you will have to go through the trial phase. But the trial itself is a risky experiment in this case, which can be financially taxing apart from requiring many hours in planning. And all the efforts can go in vain if your employees can not keep up with the change and meet your expectations. After two years of trial, Sweden had to go off the experiment despite having great employee satisfaction as it became too expensive to continue.
A change can go in any direction depending on how it has been planned and implemented. So, don’t jump the bullet and announce four days workweek because it is increasingly becoming the vogue. Hold off, sit down, make a pros and cons list for your own company and if you are daring enough and have funds, try experimenting with it for a couple of quarters and then make the call.