It’s no secret that the workplace has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. There are 53% more women in the workforce, The Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid protected leave, and minimum wage has increased dramatically. It’s pretty amazing to see the progress we’ve made, but there’s one change that’s yet to make its way to the U.S.: The Four Day workweek.
In many European countries, four-day workweeks are the rule, not the exception. The Netherlands boast average annual wages of $47,000 and average only 29 hours of work per week. But for many companies in the U.S., the trend remains that working longer hours means an increase in productivity. But what if this isn’t the case? Whatever happened to “less is more”? Can this apply to our workplace?
No Time to Waste
Let’s be honest, there are plenty of times we procrastinate on projects or reschedule meetings until the last possible minute. With shorter workweeks, employers have found that there is less time to waste, so workers are more likely to remain focused and motivated. And for those who still need those 40 hours, some businesses have incorporated the four-day workweek by simply working longer hours during these four days. Workers then have the weekend to catch up on errands, spend time with loved ones, and get refreshed for the next week.
Thinking About Making a Switch?
Keep in mind these “Dos and Don’ts” for a successful transition.
Don’t: Make it a seasonal thing.
Some companies tend to offer shorter, summer hours, which is a great start, but often employees start resenting those days when they have to stay until five instead of leaving at three, or whatever the case may be.
Do: Make it a regular thing.
Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall – you wouldn’t require your employees to work only one part of the year, so why shorten their hours only during summer? To increase motivation year-round many companies start by offering a shorter workweek even in the winter months.
Don’t: Go all in.
Incorporating the four-day workweek means a huge change in the office, so make sure you think before you leap. Don’t make the change overnight but give your employees time to adjust.
Do: Take baby steps.
When it comes to big changes at the office, it’s best to take baby steps. For example, some employers start by having early release on Fridays instead of jumping right into the four-day workweek. They then examine productivity and employee engagement levels to ensure the plan is right for their office environment.
Don’t: Stay silent.
You may know the famous quote “Where there is no vision, there is no hope”. Don’t just make the change without stating the whys, whos, and hows.
Do: Provide clarity on the “fifth day”.
Are employees expected to be available on the fifth day? What extra work does this require for the other four days? It’s important to think through all the questions employees may have and provide clarity before incorporating this new policy. There’s nothing more frustrating than walking in the dark, so if you’re thinking about making the switch, be sure to shed light on the new changes.
Keep Employees Happy
One of the challenges many human resources departments face is keeping employees happy and engaged. Training new talent is expensive and time-consuming, so when focusing on employee retention, many companies are beginning to consider the four-day workweek. For companies that cannot afford raises or other employee benefits, this can be a great perk to offer employees who have been loyal to the company.
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