There’s no denying it, the job market is undergoing a revolution. Telework, hybrid work, flexible schedules, reorganization of office spaces – these are not the only signs of this transition. More and more businesses are considering adopting the 4-day work week. Why? Is it realistic?
I had the pleasure of discussing this approach with the participants of the Live Discussion which took place on April 29. Even though the four-day work week is a “trendy” subject, I understood that its application would not always be simple. The question is now to find out, is the reorganization of work time right for your organization?
A worldwide movement?
In this article from Le Devoir, the four-day work week phenomenon is described as a worldwide movement. Once unthinkable, this new trend is taking off. Indeed, numerous experiments to this effect are being conducted or have been conducted in various countries, including Iceland, Spain, Japan, Scotland, and New Zealand. And more and more businesses are taking an interest in the benefits that seem to derive from it.
Nevertheless, various issues can complicate the situation. Equity is one of the major concerns according to the participants in the Live Discussion. Indeed, how can the differences between positions be managed when it is impossible to offer the 4-day work week to everyone? Education about the impacts and benefits then becomes very important and it may become necessary to allow time for the transition.
In addition, the benefits are not perceived or appreciated in the same way by all employees. For example, some will not want to compress their schedule for various reasons, notably parents of young children. A single option is thus rather difficult to apply. Therefore, it may be indicated to offer flexibility based on each individual, when possible. However, that makes management much more complicated.
Even though the four-day work week is often spoken about, it is above all a question of reorganization of the time devoted to work. Indeed, there are different ways to accomplish it. And so, various plans are being considered, including:
- A four-day work week with all the initial hours condensed into four days.
- A four-day work week with reduced hours; for example, going from 40 to 36 hours, spread out over 4 days.
- A week of four and a half days.
- A four-day work week every other week.
- Fewer hours per day, spread out over 5 days.
- A summer schedule, occasionally extending longer than before.
- A reduced schedule for those approaching retirement.
No matter what plan is implemented, businesses do not systematically lower employee compensation. Indeed, most organizations abroad opt to maintain the initial salary, although that seems to be less the case in Québec. It is a delicate question, of course, but experiments tend to demonstrate that this approach, which seems counterintuitive, would in fact be beneficial.
Now that the labour shortage is one of the main issues in the current job market, the four-day week could look like an interesting solution. In particular, it would make it possible to attract and retain talent. According to Forbes, three quarters of people claim that they would change jobs if they were offered a job at four days a week. And this plan could contribute to keeping people who are approaching retirement employed for longer.
When we talk about the four-day work week, many mention the reduced stress and burnout, which would improve mental and physical health. What’s more, work-life balance would be facilitated in certain cases and it would enable a certain equity between men and women.
Another thing to note is that productivity is the same or even better when the four-day work week is adopted. Indeed, the newspaper Les Affaires reported an experiment conducted in France, where the productivity had fallen after the first month following its implementation, but had increased six months later.
Obviously, before setting up a four-day work week schedule, it is important to analyze the feasibility and define the purpose of this plan. Some advise creating an advisory committee and starting with a pilot project. Of course, others emphasize that giving this possibility and then withdrawing it could turn out to be risky.
Moreover, once adopted, this approach requires administrators to use the appropriate tools to evaluate the gains or the losses over the medium and long term. Banking on the employees’ results rather than the number of hours worked could be one way to proceed.
In any event, the implementation of the four-day work week requires reviewing work methods and effecting deep change. The idea is to work smarter, not longer. Automating, reducing time spent in meetings, etc. are some of the strategies that could be explored to make efficiency gains.
Of course, when a change in schedule is mentioned, one must also rethink compensation, notably for vacations and for part-time workers. And that could rapidly become a headache.
Whatever the case may be, the reorganization of work time involves change management, not only for employees and managers! It is also necessary to anticipate customers’ reaction.
Even if some believe it is possible to implement the four-day work week for everyone, that is probably not yet the case in all industries.
What about you? What do you think of the four-day work week? To discuss this with us, do not hesitate to join us here. You can also follow us on LinkedIn to discover our next Live Discussion topics or visit our Events section. I would be very interested to hear you talk about your experiences and have an opportunity to exchange ideas with you!