Four-day Workweeks are Gaining Traction
Despite remote working exponentially increasing over the last two years, the standard workweek has continued to be five days, which became the standard roughly 80 years ago. You might be wondering why five-day workweeks are in place and the answer is fairly straightforward: Henry Ford believed shifting to five days instead of six would improve prosperity in America. Many other companies followed in Ford’s footsteps and adopted the five-day workweek, even though at the time it was considered a radical concept. Shortly after, the 40-hour workweek became law in 1940 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
It is no secret that times have changed since March 2020, and the pursuit of a four-day workweek has gained more attention. The Great Resignation has seen many organizations dealing with similar struggles in attracting, retaining, and motivating key talent due to employee burnout, mental health and many other factors. As a result, the scale has tipped to favor employees. While there may be benefits in switching to a four-day workweek, the topic is still very taboo in the general marketplace, especially in the United States. However, shortened workweeks are not a new concept and have gained more traction over the years. Especially in certain industries like in the oil and gas sector, compressed workweeks are not uncommon. 9/80 schedules which consist of 80 hours over nine days rather than the usual ten allow employees one day off over the two-workweek period. The difference is the same number of hours are being worked, whereas a four-day workweek would mean fewer hours worked for the same pay. This is where hesitation and doubt come in for many employers and even for employees. Can the same amount of work be performed in less time? Employers must have the necessary confidence in their employees, and employees must have the dedication and focus to successfully implement a four-day workweek. There is a variety of reasons why businesses should or should not implement a shortened workweek but ultimately, it will continue to be up to individual employers for the time being. It’s highly unlikely that Congress will pass another law shortening the workweek like it did in 1940.
Trials Around the World
Countries outside of the United States such as Belgium, Iceland, Japan, Spain, and many others have started trials within the last 12 months or even as far back as 2015 examining how a four-day workweek might benefit employees and employers. Japan has made the recommendation for employers to adopt an optional shorter workweek to improve employee development via education and other factors that directly impact the employee. Spain, like Japan, has launched a four-day workweek with an estimated 200 companies reducing employee work weeks to 32 hours without cutting salaries. Many countries are in discussions to make recommendations or have acknowledged a four-day workweek might be beneficial to them. A worldwide effort launched by non-profit 4 Day Week Global has been leading trials for companies in many countries around the world, including the UK, Europe and Australia.
Increased Interest in North America
Momentum in North America has been increasing for a four-day workweek, especially during The Great Resignation. Companies have shown increased willingness to find ways that will give them a competitive edge and set them apart in the market to better attract, motivate, and retain talent. The main objective is to maintain productivity and improve job satisfaction while avoiding burnout. Over the last several months, many employees have walked away from their jobs and continue to re-evaluate what is in their best interest. As a result of this, localized areas are piloting four-day weeks or even attempting to make state mandates of a four-day workweek. As of July, 60 North American companies have started trials with 4 Day Week Global based on their 100-80-100 model, meaning employees get 100% of the pay, for 80% of the time, for a commitment to maintaining 100% of the output.
To put it simply, every country is feeling the heat of attraction and retention issues, and the pressure to find new and creative ways to combat these workforce challenges is increasing. The exacerbation caused by the pandemic is an opportunity for employers to evolve and continue to grow while finding new ways to improve the employee experience and provide great benefits. While the four-day workweek isn’t for everyone and will likely not be implemented permanently, it will continue to be a hot topic of discussion monitored closely by employers as a potential tool to promote employee satisfaction and improve attraction and retention.