Best practices, use cases, and what to avoid for implementing a 4-day workweek
Origin of shorter workweek
The idea of a four-day workweek has been around for many years, but it has gained renewed attention recently as more companies and governments have experimented with shorter workweeks. The origins of the four-day workweek can be traced back to the 19th century when labor activists began pushing for shorter working hours and better working conditions.
In the early 20th century, some companies began experimenting with shorter workweeks to boost productivity and improve worker morale. For example, the Ford Motor Company famously instituted a five-day workweek in 1926, shortening the then-standard six-day workweek. This move was seen as revolutionary, but the five-day workweek quickly became the norm for many industries.
In recent years, the idea of a four-day workweek has gained traction, as studies have shown that shorter workweeks can lead to increased productivity, better work-life balance, and improved physical and mental health for workers. Some companies have even reported that a shorter workweek has led to lower absenteeism, higher employee retention, and increased job satisfaction. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
Use cases where a four-day workweek was found to be successful
The COVID-19 pandemic led to renewed interest in shorter workweeks, as many workers had to adapt to remote work and flexible schedules. As a result, many companies and governments began experimenting with shorter workweeks to improve work–life balance and boost morale during challenging times. Let’s review some cases where a four-day workweek was reported to be successful.
Microsoft Japan implemented a trial four-day workweek, which involved giving employees every Friday off for a month. The results of the trial were positive, with Microsoft Japan reporting a number of benefits including:
- A 40% increase in productivity during the trial period
- Employees reporting that they spent more time with family and engaged in hobbies and other activities they enjoyed
- Monetary savings on utilities and other expenses by closing the office on Fridays
Overall, Microsoft Japan’s four-day workweek trial was seen as a success and has since been replicated by other companies in Japan and around the world. The program was seen as a way to boost morale and improve employee engagement while increasing productivity and reducing costs.
In New Zealand, Unilever launched a one-year trial program in 2020, giving its employees a four-day workweek while still receiving full pay. The results of the trial were positive, and Unilever reported several benefits including:
- An overall increase in productivity despite working fewer hours
- 67% of employees reporting feeling less stressed, spending more time with family and friends, and having more time to engage in hobbies and personal interests
- Decreased absenteeism, with employees taking fewer sick days and reporting better mental and physical health
Unilever’s trial program was seen as a success, and the company has since announced plans to make the four-day workweek a permanent option for its New Zealand employees. The program was credited with improving employee morale and reducing stress levels, increasing productivity, and reducing costs associated with absenteeism and turnover.
4 Day Week Global Campaign
4 Day Week Global and the 4 Day Week Campaign are both initiatives aimed at promoting the adoption of a four-day workweek.
The 4 Day Week Global campaign is an international movement that seeks to promote the benefits of a four-day workweek and encourage employers and governments to consider implementing it. The campaign was launched in 2018 by a New Zealand-based company and has since gained support from businesses, labor unions, and politicians worldwide.
Both campaigns advocate reducing the standard workweek from five days to four days while maintaining full employee pay and benefits. They argue that a shorter workweek could lead to increased productivity, improved physical and mental health, and better work–life balance for employees while reducing costs associated with absenteeism and turnover for employers.
A four-day workweek can give employees:
Increased productivity: Studies have shown that working fewer hours can actually increase productivity, as employees may be more focused and efficient while working.
Reduced costs: Companies may save money on overhead costs, such as electricity and heating, by reducing the number of days employees are in the office.
Attract and retain talent: Offering a four-day workweek can benefit employees and may help companies attract and retain top talent.
Risks to be aware of before implementing a four-day workweek
While a four-day workweek can offer many benefits to both employees and employers, you should consider some risks and challenges before implementing such a program. Here are some of the potential risks to be aware of:
Decreased productivity: Although many companies have reported increased productivity with a four-day workweek, there is a risk that productivity could decrease if employees cannot effectively manage their workload in a shorter time frame.
Impact on customer service: If a company’s customers expect to be able to reach company representatives five days a week, a four-day workweek could have a negative impact on customer service.
Scheduling difficulties: If employees work different schedules, it may be challenging to coordinate meetings or team projects, leading to communication and coordination problems.
Legal and regulatory compliance: There may be legal and regulatory compliance issues to consider, such as overtime rules, labor laws, and benefits entitlements.
Resistance to change: Some employees may resist the change to a four-day workweek, which could lead to tension or decreased morale in the workplace.
It’s essential to carefully consider these potential risks and challenges and address them proactively before implementing a four-day workweek. Companies should consult with legal and HR experts and seek employee feedback to ensure that any concerns are addressed and that the program works for everyone involved.
Four-day workweek best practices
Implementing a four-day workweek can benefit employees and employers, improving job satisfaction, work–life balance, and productivity. Here are some best practices to consider when implementing a four-day workweek:
Define clear expectations: Be clear about what is expected of employees during the four working days. Establishing a set schedule and defining what constitutes an entire workday is important. Ensure everyone is on the same page and put in place clear communication strategies to avoid confusion. With fewer days to complete tasks, it is essential to encourage employees to prioritize their workload and manage their time efficiently.
With fewer workdays, employees must be more productive during their working hours. Encourage productivity by setting goals and incentives for meeting them. Simultaneously, consider implementing technology and tools to help automate and streamline tasks, allowing employees to work more efficiently.
Schedule strategically: Depending on the nature of the business, it may be more beneficial to schedule the four workdays consecutively or to split them up. Consider the workload and employee preferences when scheduling, allowing employees to choose which day of the week they take off, or offer a rotating schedule to ensure the workload is balanced across the team.
Also, when implementing a four-day workweek, it’s crucial to ensure employees can still take time off for vacation or sick days. Consider flexible scheduling or job-sharing to ensure that the workload is manageable.
Communicate effectively: Communication is critical when transitioning to a four-day workweek. Ensure that everyone understands the schedule and expectations, and keep lines of communication open to address any concerns or issues.
Establish clear guidelines for how the four-day workweek will operate, including work hours and days, employee responsibilities, and communication expectations.
Evaluate regularly: Regularly evaluate the impact of the four-day workweek on productivity and employee satisfaction. Adjust as necessary to ensure benefits are maximized and any challenges are addressed. Monitor employee productivity and performance to ensure the four-day workweek does not harm the company’s output.
How can smartPeople help?
Our smartPeople solution helps to avoid the issue of having talent in the wrong place through a strategic approach to talent management that focuses on identifying employees’ strengths and skills and aligning employees with the right roles and responsibilities within the organization. To ensure that you have the right talent with the right skillset working on the right tasks so they can complete them in a shorter time, you need to adopt a strategic approach to talent management.
Here are some steps you can take with the help of smartPeople:
Analyze your business goals and workforce needs: smartPeople can help you identify your organization’s goals and determine the skills and competencies required to achieve them.
Conduct a workforce analysis: smartPeople analyzes your current workforce to determine gaps in skills and competencies needed for the future. This information can also be used to identify the talent you need to hire or develop.
Develop and implement a talent strategy: Based on the results of your workforce analysis, we develop a talent strategy that outlines how you can acquire, develop, and retain the talent needed to achieve your business goals. smartPeople solutions also offer learning and development frameworks to help your workforce develop the right skills through upskilling, reskilling, and cross-skilling.
A four-day workweek can revolutionize your company, but only when you streamline your processes and increase employees’ efficiency and engagement. Contact us now to learn how we can help your company achieve its full potential.