Is Thursday The New Friday? 4 Pros And Cons Of Reducing Working Hours
Organizations around the world have started experimenting with a four-day workweek in an effort to create more balance for workers. A Gallup report revealed, the average number of hours an employee works is 47 hours per week. With only two days off of work for rest, employees are expected to quickly recover, remain engaged, and at peak productivity. This type of work isn’t sustainable for the long haul. For this reason, 42% of managers are considering a four-day workweek instead as a way to increase productivity.
In California, Rep. Mark Takano introduced the Thirty-Two Hour Workweek Act (H.R. 4728), aimed at reducing the standard workweek from 40 hours to 32 hours per week. While it wouldn’t mandate a 32-hour workweek for all employees, those who work more than 32-hours per week would be entitled to overtime pay. While California is often heralded as a progressive utopia, other states struggle to keep pace causing them to instead compress the traditional 40-hour workweek into four days.
Regardless of whether a state adopts a 32-hour workweek or a compressed 40-hour workweek, there are some disadvantages to consider such as:
- Less pay (employers won’t want to or are unable to pay a 40-hour salary for only 32 hours worked)
- Reduced hours can increase pressure to meet deadlines which negatively impacts mental health and stress
- Burn out from working 10 hour days to get all work completed
- Reduced hours doesn’t necessarily mean a reduced workload
- Only realistic for flexible organizations
- Customer/client experience and level of satisfaction would be impacted
- Not every employee wants to work a 10-hour day or 4 days a week
Here are three pros and cons of shifting to a four-day workweek.
How It Appeals To Top Talent
The Great Resignation has shown that employees desire a better work-life balance and an employer who values their health, needs, and happiness. However, not all workers are in favor of a four-day workweek. Many would prefer to continue with the traditional 9–5 due to enjoying the social element of their work, a resistance to change, or viewing the 10-hour workday as too stressful.
Studies have shown that there are various benefits to four-day workweeks such as:
- Improved mental health
- Ability to run errands and do things they love
- More time with friends, family, and pets
- More intentional communication
- Reduced turnover and absenteeism
- Increased employee happiness and job satisfaction
- Increased productivity and performance
- More time to devote to personal and professional development
Before implementing, companies should assess to see if it makes sense for their workplace and if there’s a way for employees to opt in or out. Emily Cooper, founder of Oliver Wicks, said, “when a company decides to make a big decision like this, it helps to have a trial period in place and to have time to discuss the set-up with employees. It pays to hear their opinions and grievances, as they will be the ones to benefit from the work schedule, once it’s set in motion.”
What It Means For An Employee’s Work-Life Balance
You can give employees more perks and benefits but what they really want is something a price tag cannot be given — more time back in their day. Work-life balance has become a top priority for workers everywhere. Having a healthy work-life balance means something different to each individual. For example, women with children and family obligations are more likely to opt for flexibility so they can take time off to care for their children and family members., young professionals may be drawn to unlimited PTO offerings to travel and focus more on hobbies, while other workers may prefer the opportunity to work remotely.
In theory, the four-day workweek is appealing to some due to having a long weekend. However, working 10-hour days might have the same impact on an employee’s mental health as working the traditional 9–5. Furthermore, employees look to leadership and management to see what their working style is like. If leadership and management aren’t modeling a healthy work-life balance by fully unplugging on Friday, employees are less likely to unplug as well.
Priya Gupta, finance and lifestyle blogger at ashandpri.com, emphasized, “the biggest mistake a company can do is make Friday’s optional and label them as high-priority workdays.” She explained, “in today’s fast-paced work environment, everything is a high-priority. As a result, most employees end up working on Friday because they fear that management will down upon them and it’ll affect their chances of being considered for a promotion. For this reason, it’s crucial that the culture supports a four-day workweek and it isn’t a false promise to hire talent. Lastly, leadership and management will need to be more intentional about meetings to not waste people’s time, and cultivate a culture where saying “no” is okay and asynchronous communication is primary.
How It Affects Productivity And Performance
When employees have to be more intentional about their workday, they’re able to engage in more deep, focused work. John McGhee, owner at Webconsuls, stated, “when workers don’t have to worry about personal tasks as much and have an extra day free, it helps them focus at work and be more productive. Being more productive is fulfilling, and helps improve happiness and overall mental health.” Additionally, it keeps employees refreshed, and renews their energy allowing them to be more vested and engaged in the company in which they work.
Alina Clark, recommended, “when planning for a 4-day work week, the one thing companies should be wary of is reducing the workweek across the board. Ideally, you should have the employees choose whether they want to work four compressed days or work for the normal five without any compression. Having a flexible work plan which allows employees to oscillate between the two has really helped us prevent burnout.”
Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to redefining workplace hours and maximizing flexibility. The pandemic has shown that what’s worked before won’t be what works moving forward. As such, companies will need to think about what’s best for their employees by speaking with them directly. Microsoft recently implemented half-day Fridays where workers use the remainder of the day for professional development. Kickstarter announced it has decided to continue its four-day workweeks while other companies have found success in flexible staggered hours referred to as 5/2/4/3 where employees work five days with two days off one week and four days with three days off the next.