Blog by Angelo Pesce, Elizabeth Hill, and Rebecca Hill
Currently, the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe are running trial programs to determine the feasibility of the four-day workweek. To be feasible, a four-day workweek must produce 100% productivity, in 80% of the hours, at 100% of the pay.
To an employee, the idea of working four days a week at full pay sounds wonderful and can help employees achieve better work-life balance and experience more positive mental health. However, achieving 100% productivity at 80% of the hours is more difficult to achieve and to measure or evaluate.
The key issue is how organizations can maintain productivity without pressuring employees to simply “work harder” during the four-day week, which would mitigate any employee benefits of the shorter work week.
Consequences for Employers
For employers, burnout and stress is causing employees to terminate their employment, with the employer having to spend money to replace them.
The challenge of the four-day workweek is determining how to maintain or improve productivity with employees working 80% of the time.
Employers must be skillful in how they design and roll-out the new operational processes, otherwise the whole plan could backfire. The new operational processes cannot expect employees to bear the full weight of meeting 100% productivity, otherwise employers will experience burnout and stress among their employees.
we should consider adding the outcome to burnout and stress is people terminating their employment and the subsequent cost of replacing them. If we leave it as it is some employers will say “who cares”. We need to show a negative consequence.
A Successful Approach
One approach to maintain or increase productivity when employees are working 80% of the time could be to adopt new technology or advanced systems. However, new or improved technology often doesn’t suit the skill levels of existing staff and organizations can be tempted to replace workers. A better approach is to develop and upgrade your current employees’ skillsets with proper training and investment. Developing staff in this way will be seen as a commitment to employees and help establish positive relationships and maintain employee trust and loyalty.
Implementing a four-day workweek can also provide the opportunity to update and improve processes to find efficiencies. A reduced workweek requires a new way of doing things. Doing the same things in the same way will not work. Challenge your team to find new approaches that will reduce the time required to achieve the objectives of their position.
The most likely solution to maintaining and improving productivity in a four-day workweek scenario is a combination of developing skills of current staff to adopt new ways to be productive and perhaps hiring new qualified employees.
Ultimately, the four-day workweek seems very attractive at first blush. However, it could be a challenge for employers to achieve their objectives and keep employees satisfied and enjoying the benefits of the shorter workweek. Therefore, a careful, thoughtful operational rollout plan would need to be established and executed while checking in with employees along the way and adjusting as needed.