How the 4-Day Workweek Can Boost Your Employee Well-Being
In 1926, Henry Ford of the Ford Motor Company shut down his regular 7-day automotive factory for two days a week leading to what we now know as the 5-day work week. Ford famously said “Just as the eight-hour day opened our way to prosperity, so the five-day week will open our way to a still greater prosperity.” This strategy was put in place to allow employees an extra day for relaxation and recreation and to focus on their well-being
Let’s now cut to 2022, a time post-pandemic where our focus has shifted to re-examining the way we work and the idea of productivity now carries a totally different meaning altogether. Employers are slowly starting to realize that Henry Ford’s idea, while well intentioned may not be as applicable with today’s workforce. A great emphasis is now being placed on overall employee well-being taking into account the other aspects of life like spending time with family, hobbies and civic engagement. Research has shown that listening to the voices of your employees and having a 4-day work week improves and increases employee productivity. 92 % of people support it and say it would improve their mental health.
This month, the UK is embarking on the world’s biggest trial of the 4-day work week with over 3.300 workers from over 70 companies participating. This trial hopes to prove that in reality, after the pandemic our new goal post is our quality of life and these companies want to show that employee well-being is priority.
The Positive Impact on Well-Being
The main motivation for the 4-day work week is to alleviate the stress of the everyday. Companies now pay special attention to the well-being of their employees and have now made this a major priority within their organization. Without a doubt, your employees are also just as if not more productive when they have time to take care of themselves, spend time with their families and have a moment to recharge and de-stress.
Jeff Bettinger, Chief human resources officer at Nu Skin has said that by letting his employees have the option of a 4-day work week they were a lot more engaged not just with their work but with the company as a whole. It’s crucial to remember that an employee that feels taken care of will take care of you and your organization.
How will Employee Well-Being Be Improved?
1. Improved Productivity
Let’s take a look at Buffer. They did an initial 1-month trial off the 4-day work week in May 2020. Naturally, they were afraid of experiencing a decrease in productivity as well as a lack of employee engagement. After this one month trial buffer recognised that productivity levels were consistent and decided to extend the trial for another 6 months eventually making it a permanent part of their organizational structure. Some companies, for example The Wanderlust Group, actually experienced an increase in productivity . One year after implementing the 4-day work week they had a 100-percent increase in Annual Recurring Revenue.
2. Better Employee Engagement
It’s obvious to say that having one day less in the working week would make anybody happier. In general employees experience lower stress levels, improved work life balance, increased engagement and there is a lot more room for personal development. Your employees now have the time to participate in charity events that are meaningful to them, to play sports that they enjoy, spend time with their families and loved ones and maybe even develop their own skill set. It’s particularly important to recognise this in a post-pandemic world where we have all been drained and stressed.
Buffer tracked these metrics and found that employees that were given a feeling of autonomy and flexibility were a lot more involved and engaged with their work and colleagues.
3. Higher Efficiency
Considering you now have less time in the workplace there is now a need for higher efficiency. How do you get to this point? By reducing meeting times and other unnecessary noise allowing employees to be focused and undistracted from their tasks and in general this fosters good employee well-being. This ensures that the things that need to be done get done in a timely and efficient manner. The 4 day work week was tested by Microsoft Japan and the shortened weeks led to more efficient meetings, happier workers and boosted productivity by a staggering 40%.
4. You Retain Your Best
It’s no surprise that a structure such as this one is extremely attractive to potential candidates. Considering this, companies now have the advantage of attracting and hiring top talent within the field as they feel their employee well-being is taken care of. Additionally, there is also a greater chance that your best employees will stick around for the long haul because they know their well-being and mental health is important to their employer. Particularly in this period of The Great Resignation having structures like this in place to retain the best employees is the number one priority.
Our Advice to Maximize Your Employees’ Well-Being
While the benefits are more than evident it’s important to recognise that this is still a major organizational shift and should be treated as such. It’s important to highlight and rectify any potential issues that may arise and it’s even more important that your employees have clear instructions on what this new shift means.
1. What day to take off?
It may be difficult with some companies to have everyone take the same day off. With this being said, companies need to be organized on who is present or absent and on what days. Additionally, management will have to decide who chooses what days are taken, the employee or the employer? In some cases, for example Buffer, it may make more sense for everyone to have the same day off considering that it may become a challenge to remember who is available and when. Other companies may allow for the employees to decide what day they would like to take off but it’s important to remember that this is clearly communicated to not only the manager but the other members of the team.
There may be some employees who are not interested in working one day less but maybe prefer to work less hours 5 days a week. There should be room for flexibility considering that maybe not all your employees have families or kids to take care of or maybe you have employees that prefer to work in the evenings and not the mornings. It is important to recognise these different working patterns because the reality is that these conditions might be where your employees work best and produce the best work for the organization.
3. What about Salary?
Should salaries stay the same? Considering that we’re spending less time in the office it’s a valid question to ask. The point is, that companies are now focusing on output as opposed to hours. Getting the job done within the required deadline is all that is required and therefore whether it’s done in 5 days or 4 it should have zero impact on salary. According to CBC Canada, while less hours are being put in there is a definite increase in employee productivity adding to the fact that compensation should not be changed.
4. PTO and Vacation policies
There is no one-size-fits-all in this area. Consider companies that are based in countries where there are a lot of bank holidays. There may be instances more often than not where there is a 3-day work week. These companies may consider reducing the amount of paid time off given to their employees. Other companies like Buffer focus a lot more on output and productivity so for them it made more sense to maintain their current policies. Each company should evaluate and decide what works best for their employees well-being and their organization.
5. Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!
Since the pandemic a lot of companies have implemented a fully remote structure with their employees so it’s safe to say that there may be times where information might get lost or is not communicated to the right people. Remember, efficiency is key and in order to ensure this all your employees need to be up to date and informed of what is happening particularly when there is a shift in structure. If your company doesn’t already have one, using a work management platform such as Asana will allow people to document their work and progress making it a lot easier for anyone to pick up where they left off. This would be particularly effective in the cases where different people take different days off so that team members that are present are fully aware of what is happening and what needs to be done.
Potential Downsides of the 4-Day Workweek & How to Solve Them
Nothing comes without its challenges but there are many ways to combat them and make the transition as easy and smooth as possible. With the 4-day work week, efficiency is at the forefront and with that there are less meetings in order to enable employees to focus on their tasks. The flipside is that it now presents less opportunities for social interaction and getting to know our colleagues. This lack of team bonding or team engagement may have a negative impact on employee well-being especially with remote teams.
How can we solve this? Communications Agency Praytell, has made it a priority to schedule zoom calls and meetings specifically to get to know your other team members as well as mental health sessions with managers. For some companies this may be difficult at the beginning considering that there is now less time in the working week. Once you have gotten the ball rolling, take a moment to schedule and organize regular events that will encourage your employees to spend time and interact with one another.
For managers, it may seem daunting at first to make what seems like such a drastic shift. It’s important to remember that our focus should always be on our employee well-being and putting their needs first to ensure you have the best talent possible within your organization.
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Give your people the support they need in these unprecedented times.