The challenges of the four day week
In this article we outline some of the challenges of the four day week.
Implementing a four day workweek can bring many benefits, such as improved work-life balance, increased employee satisfaction and if you can’t offer remote or hybrid working to your team it is well worth considering. However, it also presents certain challenges.
No one size fits all
First off, there is no one size fits all. When it comes to implementing a four day week, there are different approaches that need to be considered. Begin by asking yourself these questions:
Will a compressed workweek work for your business or do you plan to reduce working hours?
If you reduce hours, will you reduce pay? Do you have other variable compensation structures to consider?
Will people be able to self-schedule or are you planning a shift based 4-day week?
Will you accommodate a rotating day off or a set one?
And maybe you will incorporate hybrid working as well?
There are lots of alternatives to consider and some leaders procrastinate because they don’t know where to start. In the end, choice depends on various factors, including industry, operational needs, employee preferences and the nature of the work being performed.
Don’t forget the client
Yes, some organisations do forget the client – what are their demands? After all, they pay the bills. Customer needs certainly become more complex with a shortened workweek. We encourage our clients to consider that challenge very carefully. It depends on the industry and nature of work, but maintaining adequate coverage and responsiveness during the off day can be an issue.
As you can imagine, condensing the same amount of work into fewer days can be challenging and there is a risk of overwhelming employees with excessive workloads. There is a risk that some employees may feel increased pressure to complete the same amount of work in fewer days.
An accountancy firm we work with offered the condensed form of the 4-day week to their people and the majority feedback was that trying to cram 10 hours into the 4 days would impact their surfing! Staff countered the proposal by suggesting a 9-day fortnight instead. The boss has found this approach easily manageable and it’s really popular with employees too, including the surfers.
In reality, the four day week often doesn’t work that well for part-time people. Many choose part time because they have childcare or caring responsibilities, so the compressed week version of the 4 day week just doesn’t fit their needs. You may end up with equity issues to consider.
And if you offer it so some and not to others, you run the risk of exacerbating existing inequalities and create resentment against those who get to have a three-day weekend. It’s a proper balancing act to get it right!
The four day creep
This refers to a situation where a company that initially implemented a four-day workweek starts gradually reverting back to a five-day workweek over time. This can happen due to various reasons, such as increased workload, scheduling conflicts or a lack of proper planning and implementation.
Certainly, we know of one firm of professional specialists who reduced hours to 30 from 37.5 and slightly reduced pay. They initially found it worked brilliantly, but one day they won a fabulous new piece of work. Their specialisms are hard to recruit for and they steadily crept back to a 5-day week to cover the workload, meaning the salary bill also crept back up higher than pre day week levels. The learning point here – is think through how you’ll deal with business growth/wins that leads to increased workload.
These challenges are not insurmountable and with proper planning, communication and flexible thinking on the part of leadership, many organisations have successfully implemented a four-day workweek while addressing these concerns effectively.
Because there are no brainers too. One client, in the manufacturing industry, where shift work is common, implemented a four-day workweek by simply adjusting the shift schedules. Employees worked longer shifts for four days and had the remaining three days off, while maintaining the same total hours for the week. It made their jobs so much more attractive and they’ve also found productivity was better, running costs reduced and they retained staff too.
Bit of a win/win in an industry that often doesn’t believe they can work ‘smart’. You see, some leaders in the manufacturing sector view Smart Working as the choice between office v home. We point out that working smart is much broader than that – in fact we have 50 different smart working options in our smart workforce model to share with our clients.
And another, in the charity sector, who delivers its services generally on a weekend, has been really successful in implementing 4-day week Friday to Monday, leaving Tuesday, Weds and Thursday as their time off.
So, no one size fits all. The advice I would give is to assess where your organisation is now and what sort of smart working options will work in your business, using a robust feasibility process. That process might suggest the four day week, it may propose something more appropriate so keep an open mind.
Most importantly, create a shared vision of smart working that your people can buy into and plan, plan, plan your implementation. We’re here to help! So get in touch now.