#4DayWeek: The Way Forward?
By Yael Shafrir, CMO of Meet in Place
Currently, more than a million people work 7 days a week, and 3.3 million working over 45 hours a week. Stress and long hours were workers biggest concerns after pay, according to research conducted by Tuc. Unlike decades ago, ‘shutting down’ at the end of the day is not as simple; technology is at our fingertips and we have access to 24/7 communication. Physically leaving the office is not the same as mentally turning off.
To ease these concerns, work-life balance needs to be put at the forefront of a business. Offering flexible hours and days to work from home initially gained popularity and are still an important consideration for HR professionals. However, with our ‘always on’ mentality, more drastic steps need to be considered, including a four-day work week offering. One thing to consider: how can cutting a full work day off a week be beneficial?
From crash & burn to autopilot
A study by Henley Business School found that a shorter working week would take a positive toll on employee mental health, with over 75% of millennials stating that the flexibility would improve their mental health. The results showed that almost 70% of employees took less sick days, and were less stressed when working less than five days.
Having an extended weekend can leave employees with more time to do things they normally are unable to. The extra day gives everyone more time to dive into interests that are outside their day-to-day jobs. On Monday morning, employees who have had a longer break likely will return feeling more inspired, a catalyst for more effective work and a enlightened, creative way of thinking. Overall, a longer break between the working week will enable employees to better prioritise and have a clearer perspective.
While some companies push back on offering a four-day week, due to the possibility of disrupting employees' routine and increasing their stress, the findings of the HBS report have proven this is not the case finding that overall, 70% of employees surveyed were happier.
Considering employee happiness should be imperative to a loyal workforce. HR professionals should ensure that while improving employee satisfaction, company productivity is not jeopardised. Evidence from trials in various countries, including New Zealand and Japan, found that when it comes to offering a shorter work week, breaking through the relentless pace of work is not just the key to happiness, but the answer to creating a more productive workforce.
Last August, Microsoft Japan experimented with flexible working styles offerings to help improve productivity and creativity. The company tested a four-day work week for the month of August and found that there was a 40% increase in productivity. The evidence is supported by a four day week pilot study in New Zealand, which found stress levels were down from 45% to 38% in employees and and work-life balance scores increased from 54% to nearly 80%.
Nearly 50% of workers would develop their work skills if their work week was cut down, which would not only benefit them but the level of skill in the company as well.
Constraints of a four-day week
While the benefits of a four day work week are evident, it is important for HR professionals to consider any potential limitations prior to experimenting. Workshops, webinars and meetings should be offered, to answer any questions from staff, to explain what this new benefit means and how it will be rolled out, as well as best practices to ensure this can be effective for each employee.
Employers should speak with staff before introducing changes to the working week about what it means to them as well as learn about any concerns or questions they may have. Conversations should be led by the HR department, and result in processes and actions that help staff feel comfortable and prepared to take on the four day working week.
Need for HR leaders to wing it
Finland and Spain’s Valencia plan to roll out shorter weeks, with Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland and the UK among others having major unions to back the concept. This is an exciting time for HR professionals. Having government implementation of legislation that encourages companies to move towards a shorter week, the change ultimately comes down to the business itself, with leaders in HR having a massive role to play in assessing how employees will be affected.
While considering a few limitations, research on the four-day work week has provided enough evidence that the shorter week needs to be seriously considered as it could be the future of the workplace. Having an extra day to be out of the office, whether participating in leisurely activities, the brain will have time to generate ideas and enhance creativity. A source that will be very imperative in the future of work.
HR professionals need to start taking the necessary steps today; looking at the implications of the four-day working week and how it could benefit the company and staff. Then, research can be presented to the company decision makers. Without HR professionals leading this, it can easily be bypassed as company leaders focus on financials and growth, and a successful business left behind.
About the author: Yael Shafrir is the Chief Marketing Officer of Meet in Place, a global network of innovative meeting spaces designed for an urban boutique hospitality experience. The Meet in Place philosophy is rooted in meeting science, as every design feature and amenity offered serves a unique purpose to make meetings as productive as possible.