How the Four-Day Workweek Could Help Companies Gain an Edge in the Competitive Talent Market

May 31, 2022
Stela Gineva

How the Four-Day Workweek Could Help Companies Gain an Edge in the Competitive Talent Market

May 31, 2022
Stela Gineva

The four-day workweek has been gaining popularity in recent years as a way to improve work-life balance and boost productivity. A number of major companies, including Microsoft and Amazon, have experimented with four-day workweeks, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. Employees report feeling more rested and less stressed, while companies see increased productivity and job satisfaction.

In a competitive labor market, offering a four-day workweek could be a major differentiator for companies looking to attract and retain top talent. Moreover, a four-day workweek can be an important part of creating a flexible and innovative culture. 

In today's world, where technology allows us to work from anywhere at any time, there is no need to confine employees to a traditional five-day workweek. Allowing employees to have more control over their schedules can lead to greater creativity and collaboration. Ultimately, the four-day workweek could be a win-win for both employees and employers.

But is the four-day workweek right for you and your business? And could it be a useful strategy for attracting and retaining employees? 

The four-day workweek: how are companies faring? 

Several companies have tried four-day workweeks across the world with positive results. For instance, at Perpetual Guardian, the four-day workweek was introduced to start a conversation around productivity and engagement.

The results were encouraging. 

The company experienced a 40% increase in engagement as compared to pre-trial figures. Staff had ownership over their schedules and worked to continue supporting their customers despite having less time at work. 

The success behind Perpetual Guardian’s four-day workweek was the flexibility that underpinned it. Employees were encouraged to take their rest day when they could, but to work the day if their workload demanded it. However, staff were empowered to make that decision for themselves, rather than taking direction from a line manager. 

The company decided to implement the four-day workweek full-time as a result of the positive outcomes. The conversation has now moved on to creating a permanent four-day workweek. 

Other companies have had success with the four-day workweek as well. When Microsoft Japan experimented with a four-day workweek, it found that sales had been boosted by nearly 40% despite offices being shut every Friday. 

As part of the experiment, meetings were restricted to a maximum of 30 minutes and online discussions were encouraged in place of face-to-face meetings. This freed up employees to focus on work that delivered outcomes. 

In Iceland, 1% of the working population took part in a four-day workweek trial when the national government launched an experiment last year. The trial was declared an ‘overwhelming success’ with productivity either increasing or remaining the same across the board.

The benefits of the four-day workweek 

In a recent poll, several businesses reported positive results from implementing a four-day workweek, including increased productivity and happier employees. And with the ever-growing importance of attracting and retaining the best talent, the four-day workweek is an appealing option for many businesses. If you're considering making the switch to a four-day workweek, here are some of the benefits you can expect:

Improved productivity

This may sound counterintuitive at first, but increased productivity is an often-cited benefit of the four-day workweek. With fewer days to complete their work, employees are often more focused and efficient with their time. As a result, 63% of businesses said they saw an increase in the quality of work being produced. 

Attracting and retaining top talent 

With more and more people seeking flexible working arrangements, the four-day workweek can be a great way to attract top talent. By offering a four-day workweek, you'll be able to showcase your commitment to work-life balance and appeal to people from all walks of life. 

For instance, 70% of companies reported the four-day week helped them attract and retain employees with children or caring responsibilities. 

Making your employees happier 

In addition to being more productive, employees who work four days per week also report higher levels of satisfaction with their jobs. This boost in morale can lead to improved retention rates and lower levels of absenteeism.

Of businesses surveyed, a staggering 78% said their employees reported higher overall levels of happiness as a result of the four-day workweek. 

Saving costs

When polled, 51% of employers said they saved costs after they implemented a four-day workweek. Granted, this is more likely to be the case if the employer has an office-based business rather than a remote-first company, but nevertheless, there is a saving to be made beyond the cost of utilities. Employers cited increased productivity as one of the reasons for saving costs, for example. 

Things to consider before implementing the four-day week 

There's no denying that the four-day workweek has a lot of appeal. Who wouldn't love an extra day off each week? But before you implement a four-day week at your company, there are a few things you need to consider.

A four-day workweek is about working fewer hours in fewer days 

It’s important to understand the difference between a four-day workweek and a compressed hours week. In a four-day workweek, employees work fewer hours overall. In a compressed hours week, employees work the same number of hours, but in fewer days.

The latter is the wrong approach and can lead to decreased levels of productivity and engagement, as well as unhappy employees. If you wish to implement the four-day workweek, you need to empower your employees to work fewer hours. 

This could be achieved by limiting the number of meetngs, or focusing on results rather than time spent working. 

Customer satisfaction could suffer if everyone is off on a Friday 

Businesses also need to think about customer satisfaction. If there's no one in on Friday, for example, who will respond to customer queries? Or, even if there are some employees working on Friday, what happens if there is a spike in queries and not enough staff to handle them? 

Customer satisfaction levels are a major worry when it comes to implementing a four-day week. Businesses fear losing potential customers or angering current customers if their queries are not responded to in a timely manner. 

This could be resolved by creating a shift rota rather than closing the entire operation down for a certain day. Alternatively, the business could communicate to its current customers that it plans to close on a specific day moving forward. If advance notice is provided, this could alleviate any stress caused as a result. 

The switch to a four-day workweek can result in more work for line managers 

If you choose to keep the business open five days a week rather than four days a week, the line managers will need to manage the shift rota for employees. 

For instance, some employees might get Mondays off, while others may get Fridays off. This rota will need to be managed by the line manager which will create more admin work, as well as managing expectations about days off. 

Further, managers will need to facilitate the change in policy and monitor productivity levels. All of this could result in increased work for the line manager, at least at the outset. The business needs to support the line manager to ensure the success of the trial.

The four-day week: the future of work or a dying fad? 

There's been a lot of talk lately about the four-day workweek. Some people argue that it's the future of work, while others see it as a passing fad. The four-day week won’t be right for everyone. But some businesses could benefit from offering it to their employees. 

On the plus side, there are several potential benefits to adopting a four-day workweek. For starters, it can increase productivity. Polls have shown that workers are more productive when they work fewer hours. They're also more likely to take less time off and are less likely to call in sick.

Additionally, a four-day workweek can help attract and retain talent. In today's competitive job market, candidates are increasingly looking for companies that offer flexible working arrangements. Finally, four-day workweeks can improve mental health and overall job satisfaction. Workers who have more free time outside of work tend to be happier and healthier.

Of course, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider. One is that four-day workweeks can put an increased workload on managers. They need to manage shift rotas, as well as look at productivity levels and performance. Further, customer satisfaction and new client retention could suffer if the changes are not communicated clearly or if the business decided to shut down operations for a full day each week. And finally, the wrong approach could result in employees working their ‘lost’ hours over the four days, resulting in burnout and lack of engagement. 

Still, the four-day workweek has proven to be a success in several companies, with increased levels of productivity and engagement. It could certainly be a strategy to consider when it comes to attracting and retaining employees.

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