Some American workers are celebrating as the momentum for the four-day workweek is gaining steam in the U.S. That’s true for some large companies, but not for some industries, small businesses and startups.
Advocates believe lowering the workweek to four 10-hour days or lowering it from 40 to 32 hours doesn’t hurt productivity for businesses while it improves the well-being for workers and prevents burnout.
Globally, many companies have switched to a four-day workweek and it’s even gaining momentum in states like Idaho.
This is especially true after companies began reviewing human resources policies since the COVID-19 pandemic, and switched to work-from-home and hybrid offices.
The remote working trend was a catalyst for a new managing approach as well as new regulations and overall changes in business thinking.
Goals for a four-day workweek
If companies are to realize the benefits of a shorter workweek, they’ll need to improve retention of employees who want more recreational time or more at-home family time.
While companies will want to reduce turnover, they’ll also want to increase sales. But workers will have to deliver stronger results in a shorter workweek without a loss in pay or benefits.
Some organizations already have four 10-hour days. Now, a lot of people anticipate a four-day workweek to be a 32-hour workweek.
For example, employees might have Fridays off and work Monday through Thursday. Or, companies might elect to allow employees to pick their days off or to develop an organization policy allowing for a different third day off.
Unfortunately, if every employee has Friday off, it becomes vulnerable to staffing problems or it risks unhappy customers.
In the case of a flexible third day off, it will hurt a company’s productivity if it employs teams of people for its projects. There’d be no cohesion.
Historical trends in workweeks
During the Industrial Revolution, the workweek began dropping from six days to five days thanks to Ford Motor Co. Henry Ford began thinking about shortening the workweek for his employees in 1916. It became standard in 1926.
The Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 required a new minimum wage of 25 cents an hour, a 44-hour workweek and overtime pay of 1.5 times the hourly wage.
A 42-hour workweek was mandated in 1939 and then a 40-hour workweek became law a year later.
The four-day 10-hour workweek started taking root in the 1990s. For example, city employees in Spanish Fork, Utah were given the schedule in 2004.
Obviously, the pandemic and the so-called Great Resignation were catalysts recently in the U.S.
In 2020, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development data indicates German workers worked only 25.6 hours a week while the average Canadian worker logged 32 hours and Americans 34 hours.
Benefits from workers’ perspectives
Workers can anticipate more recreation and more time for families, friends and hobbies; doctor appointments; caregiving; home projects; or personal development and education.
Many employees appreciate a shorter workweek because it reduces their stress by being better able to manage their off-duty hours, which means they’re probably more refreshed and engaged when on the job.
Benefits for employers
Hoping for a more motivated workforce, businesses might benefit from higher sales; less employee burnout; enhanced employee retention; recruiting for workers; and decreased office-operating costs if it doesn’t have a 100-percent remote or hybrid staff.
But my sense is employees’ engagement often suffers when they work fewer hours in a poorly managed operation.
Benefits for society
There will be less traffic congestion and freeway pollution.
Shorter workweek cons for employees
Some companies might find many of their employees prefer a five-day workweek. Why? They might like socializing with co-workers or they might enjoy staying busier or like the challenges of their jobs.
Others might become stressed, apprehensive about having to work harder in order to complete deadlines just before going on vacation.
Shorter workweek cons for employers
A shorter workweek is more feasible for specialized companies with a knowledge workforce than for service industries. Why? Customer service and tech support usually suffers.
Another thought: In B2B, what about the companies on a shorter workweek serving their customers who aren’t on a shorter workweek?
How companies can make short workweeks work
Solutions to proceed include:
- Establish achievable goals in a shorter workweek
- Measure outcomes, not hours
- Evaluate and prioritize projects
- Focus on decreasing distractions and interruptions
- Make best use of technology and automation
- Encourage creativity and resourcefulness
- Focus on effective internal communication
- Reduce and shorten meetings
- Eliminate unnecessary use of emailing and messaging apps
- Minimize work-related social events
- Eliminate wasted time by implementing asynchronous work
- Encourage company-wide trust
- Maintain employee wages
- Regularly encourage and solicit feedback from employees
- Monitor progress and focus on continuous improvement
If you’re considering a shorter workweek, do your due diligence on what’s best for your organization.
Always remember it doesn’t work for every business and it certainly won’t work if you have a dysfunctional team. Bear in mind you’ll probably have to evaluate your culture and change hesitant minds.
From the Coach’s Corner, here are articles regarding remote employees:
HR – Compliance with DOL Rules for Remote Workers— The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rules for sending labor-law notices to remote workers mean trouble for your business, if you fail to comply.
Guidelines to Meet FLSA Responsibilities for Remote Workers — As an employer, you have a myriad of responsibilities under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA ) for exempt and nonexempt workers who work at home.
Right Way to Implement Remote Working for New Hires — With the push for remote working that has been occurring for the past year and a half, employers need to recreate the process in order to fit the new landscape of working.
Secrets on Giving Performance Reviews to Remote Workers — Certainly, virtual performance reviews are needed for telecommuters. Video tools are vital in performance reviews. They’re very telling. Here’s why and how.
Your Expense and Tax Obligations with Remote Workers — While there are advantages for employers with a remote staff, there are numerous financial issues to consider when you employ telecommuting employees. You need a written agreement. Here’s an overview.
“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.”
-Arnold J. Toynbee