Is Thursday the new Friday? Three Pros and Cons of reducing working hours

In an effort to improve worker balance, organizations around the globe have begun to experiment with a four-day work week. According to a Gallup survey, employees work an average 47 hours per week. Employees are expected to recover quickly, stay engaged, and be at their peak productivity with only two days off work. This kind of work is not sustainable over the long-term. 42% managers are suggesting a four-day workweek to increase productivity.

California Representative Mark Takano introduced (H.R. 4728) is a bill that reduces the standard workweek’s time from 40 to 32 hours per week. Although it would not mandate a 32 hour workweek for all employees; however, overtime pay would be available to those who work more that 32 hours per week. California is often hailed as a progressive utopia. However, other states are struggling to keep up with California’s pace. They have reduced the 40-hour workweek to just four days.

No matter if a state has a 32-hour or a 40-hour workweek there are still disadvantages.

  • Employers won’t or can’t pay a 40-hour wage for 32 hours of work.
  • Reducing hours can lead to increased pressure to meet deadlines, which can negatively impact mental health and stress.
  • To finish all your work, you will burn out if you are working for 10 hours a day
  • Reducing hours does not necessarily mean a reduction in work load
  • Flexible organizations are only realistic if they are flexible
  • The customer/client experience, as well as the level of satisfaction, would be affected
  • Some employees don’t want to work for a 10 hour day or four days per week.

These are the pros and cons to switching to a 4-day workweek.

What Attracts Top Talent to It

Employees want a better work-life balance, as well as an employer that values their happiness, health, and needs. The Great Resignation proved this. Not all workers support a four-day workweek. Many workers would rather keep the 9-5 workday because they enjoy the social aspect of work and resist change. Others may find the 10-hour workday too stressful.

Research has shown many benefits to a four-day work week, such as:

  • Better mental health
  • Ability to do things they love and run errands
  • Spend more time with family and friends.
  • More intentional communication
  • Reduction in turnover and absenteeism
  • Employee happiness and job satisfaction increase
  • Performance and productivity increases
  • You have more time for professional and personal development

Companies should evaluate whether it is feasible for them to implement and if employees have the option to opt out or in. Emily Cooper, founder and CEO of Oliver Wicks said that it is important to have a trial period, as well as time to discuss the setup with employees, before a company makes a major decision like this. It’s important to listen to their grievances and opinions, since they will benefit from the work schedule once it is in place.

What it means for an employee’s work-life balance

While you can offer employees more perks, benefits and other perks, what they really want is something that cannot be bought – more of their time. Workers everywhere have made work-life balance a top priority. Each person has a different definition of a healthy work/life balance. Women with children or family obligations may choose flexibility to be able to take time off from work to care for them. Young professionals might prefer to have unlimited PTO to travel and enjoy their hobbies while others may prefer remote work.

The four-day workweek can be appealing to some because it allows for a longer weekend. But, employees might not feel the same benefits from working 10 hours a day as if they were working traditional 9-5 jobs. Employees look up to their leaders and managers to learn more about their work style. Employees will be less inclined to unplug if their leaders and managers don’t model a healthy work/life balance.

Priya Gupta is a finance and lifestyle blogger at Ashandpri.com. She stressed that “the greatest mistake a company could make is to make Fridays optional and call them high-priority workdays.” Most employees work Fridays because they fear management will make them feel inferior and that it could affect their chances of getting promoted. It’s important that culture supports a 4-day work week and that it doesn’t promise talent. Leadership and management must be more deliberate about meetings in order to avoid wasting people’s time and foster a culture of asynchronous communication and saying “no”.


How it Affects Productivity and Performance

Employees are more productive when they are more deliberate about how they work. John McGhee, the owner of Webconsuls stated that workers are more productive when they don’t have as many personal tasks to worry about and have more time for work. It is satisfying to be productive, which can improve happiness and overall health.

Alina Clark, cofounder and CEO of CocoDoc recommended that companies avoid reducing their workweek. Employees should be able to choose whether they prefer to work for five days without any compression or four compressed days. We have seen a reduction in burnout by having a flexible work schedule that allows employees to switch between them.

There is no one-size fits all approach to changing workplace hours or maximising flexibility. The pandemic proved that it doesn’t matter what worked in the past. Companies will have to talk with their employees about what is best for them. Microsoft, for example, recently introduced half-day Fridays that allow workers to use the rest of the day for professional growth. Kickstarter however announced that it will continue its four-day workweeks. Flexible staggered hours, also known as 5/2/4/3, have been a success for some companies. They work five days with two days off and four days with three off the next week.

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