Could a 4-Day Workweek Work for Your Business?
A four-day workweek typically allows employees to put in 10 hours a day instead of eight, so that they fulfill their full-time commitment, or 40 hours, in four days instead of five.
If you’re considering following the trend — or implementing some other type of nontraditional scheduling policy — here are some pros, cons, and alternatives to consider.
The most commonly cited advantage of the four-day workweek: employee satisfaction. Workers get more time with their families, and they can handle personal tasks on a weekday instead of the weekend. One less commute per week to and from the office also saves gas.
Employers may spend less on overhead costs like fuel for fleet vehicles and utilities. Additionally, non-traditional work weeks may help to draw top talent, increase retention rates, and cut down on employees leaving work to attend to personal matters — a practice that has increased 31 percent since 2011.
Lee Schwartz, founder of the Schwartz Profitability Group, says that although the office may be closed, staff can still address issues that might arise on the off day without leaving home. “With technology as it is today, emergencies that occur on days off can be handled via smartphones, iPads, laptops, even social media”
Kalianna Dean, managing editor of Creditcard.com.au, adds that giving people an extra day off to attend to personal matters makes them more focused on the job. The company started the four-day workweek in December of 2012.
Since then, Dean notes that the company has seen an increase in productivity, measurable metrics have improved, and morale is higher. Of the few negatives, she says, “Certain tasks might take that extra day to be completed but often when you prioritize correctly you can avoid things getting too far delayed.”
Chelsey Washington, owner of Payton Jade Productions, previously worked as a manager at a large online university. Its employees had the option of working four days or five per week. Although the four-day workweek allowed employees to tend to personal matters more easily, it had its problems. “Meetings and team engagement were affected,” Washington says. “Employees who are working longer days often get tired after they have logged eight hours.”
Mark Stevens, CEO of MSCO Media, says that working fewer days, even if you log the same number of hours, can hurt business. “The problem with the four-day workweek is that it puts you at a competitive disadvantage, as your customers or clients are working for five days or more,” he says.
Workforce.com blogger Kris Dunn points out that a four-day workweek takes the emphasis off results and places it on time. “Put the four-day workweek in, and you’re sending an institutional message to your salaried workers that your organization expects 40 hours rather than continuous effort until their objectives are met,” he says.
1. Use days off as an incentive. Rather than having employees off the clock one day a week, find ways to offer scheduling flexibility while maintaining your ability to serve clients. “I recommend, and provide, reward days, which award employees with days off when they go above and beyond in innovating, serving their teams or clients,” Stevens says. “That turns it from an entitlement to a meritocracy.”
2. Allow telecommuting. A recent Gallup study found that employees working from a remote location log more hours than those who work on-site. Give your employees the opportunity to demonstrate that they can be effective at home (or in another environment that is comfortable to them).
3. Emphasize quality over quantity. Salaried employees tend to be less focused on hours worked than tasks completed. Allow them the latitude to maintain a schedule that maximizes their effectiveness. Let them know that you will judge them on the quality of their work instead of the quantity of time they log. Treat them like entrepreneurs, and they may start to act like them.
4. Do what works for your business. Other business owners and experts may tell you how to run your company to get ahead. But only you know what works for your staff and business model. Be willing to try new ideas. This may make your business more efficient and attract up-and-coming talent in your industry.
Tim Parker is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.