Covid and remote working have changed the workplace. Now let’s change the working week – to 4 days.
There’s an inconvenient truth about modern employment: a lot of people hate their jobs. Even before the pandemic, a Gallup global poll found that about 85% of people were not engaged at work. Two-thirds of Americans said they had negative feelings about their work, while 25% of UK sick days can be attributed to stress in the workplace.
To increase employee satisfaction and increase productivity, to improve my business and happier customers, I will be piloting a four day work week.
I don’t want my employees to hate their jobs, and I don’t want them to work more hours than the company needs. Most importantly, I don’t want them to join the 4 million Americans who quit their jobs in the first half of this year during the Great Resignation. If they’re among the 41% of workers globally who are considering quitting, I want to make sure they stay happy, productive, and in my company.
To increase employee satisfaction and increase productivity, to improve my business and make my customers happier, I will be piloting a four day work week starting in the new year. For 32 hours of work, my employees will receive the same salary and benefits that they have been receiving for 40. Once implemented, we will track a number of metrics, such as employee and customer satisfaction and overall labor accomplished.
I expect to see improvement in all of these measures. If the Icelandic experience has anything to do with it, it should be a resounding success. Today, 85% of the population works there four days a week at the same salary as they received five. Iceland’s economy has not collapsed and not all of its companies have filed for bankruptcy. Employees have a better work-life balance, are better rested, and report being more motivated and creative at work. Isn’t that the atmosphere we want to create everywhere at work?
I want to try to achieve the same results and I believe that a four day week will not only be good for my employees, but also for the results of my business. More hours does not mean more work. In fact, the opposite can often be true; fewer hours of work can add the urgency and motivation to get the job done. I expect a shorter work week to increase productivity and employee satisfaction, two key elements in increasing profitability.
I am not the only pioneer. Social media planning company Buffer has already tried this experiment with huge success. According to company survey data, around 60 percent of workers felt equally productive and nearly 34 percent of workers felt more productive. Their managers mostly found the same thing. In the engineering department, production increased in several shifts, doubling in some cases. Customer service, however, experienced a drop in production as customers had to wait longer for responses.
More and more countries are now trying. Scotland is considering a shortened work week across the country, and New Zealand, Sweden, Finland, Japan and Spain are considering or piloting reduced hours in at least some companies. In the United States, Representative Mark Takano, D-Calif., Introduced legislation to reduce the standard work week to 32 hours. It could play well with voters: In 2018, more than half of Americans supported the idea.
There is no reason why the work week should be five days. In the early 1900s, a six-day work week in America was common, allowing employees to attend church and visit relatives on Sundays. In 1923, the automaker Henry Ford reduced the working days of its employees from six to five. He too saw his productivity increase, as employees had to do more when they were at work.
Historian C. Northcote Parkinson said of the post-war bureaucracy in 1955: “It is a common observation that work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” This phenomenon, now called Parkinson’s law, indicates how motivating deadlines (especially on weekends) are. Likewise, the Yerkes-Dodson Law, developed by two psychologists at the turn of the last century, suggests that there is an optimal level of arousal that improves our performance on the task. We just have to find the right balance.
After the great experiences in our professional life that we had in 2020, we should continue to experience – and learn – in 2021 and 2022. The same managers who rolled their eyes to the work from home crowd are the ones at the bottom. four day work week. Just as they have been denied by remote work, I think they will be denied by the four day work week.
But that’s why I’m piloting this idea before committing myself to it definitively. I believe that four days will allow people to take back control of their lives as much as possible while ensuring that they still meet the company’s expectations. Part of that experience is making sure that it does, that the approach creates more motivation and not more stress, that employees can be more focused and more efficient – really work, not just fill their time. – for four days in exchange for a day off supplement.
After our trial period, I look forward to hearing from the staff on how the new arrangement is feeling and seeing if I’m correct that the vast majority will want to continue with this. To ensure the same and consistent customer service, I plan to stagger the working days and, if necessary, increase our staff.
After all, employment is not just about pure productivity. People are not machines. We must strive to create a place where people thrive and feel fulfilled, and are not treated as programmable workaholics who meet deadlines. This is especially true in high income creative ventures where you need people to put their hearts and souls, not just their bodies, to work every day.
A four-day work week also means your team won’t use any downtime at work to check out jobs on LinkedIn. After all, who would want to work 25% longer for the same money?