The Four-Day Workweek is Here: How Do You Make it Viable for Your Organization?

The five-day workweek is one of the last vestiges of a former era. The Henry Ford Motor Company introduced the 40-hour, five-day workweek in 1926 – nearly 100 years ago. 

Over the last 20 years, we’ve experienced technology disrupting nearly every facet of our everyday life – from how we meet potential spouses to how we make dinner reservations, communicate with each other and share video and pictures, to name just a few.

The five-day workweek is ripe for disruption. Technology has provided us with exceptional tools that allow us to accomplish more in less time. Tasks that used to take hours upon hours – such as aggregating information –  are now automated and accomplished in minutes. Meanwhile, the pandemic shifted expectations of how we approach work-life balance.

People working remotely refashioned the traditional eight-hour workday, from an eight-hour continuous stretch to instead carving their day into two four-hour shifts or even four two-hour shifts, to spend time with their kids or participate in an activity they enjoy, such as hiking or yoga. 

More than a dozen companies are implementing or experimenting with the shorter work week to attract and retain talent. Belgium is allowing government staff to work a four-day workweek to boost flexibility post-pandemic. In January, tech startup Bolt made the four-day workweek permanent, following a three-month experiment with the model. An internal survey revealed, not surprisingly, that 94% of its staff wanted to keep the four-day workweek. It also found that 84% had improved productivity and work-life balance.

Four-Day Workweek - The Next Disruptor

In Dec. 2020, Prodoscore published survey findings that led us to predict that the five-day workweek for knowledge workers was slowly eroding. The data revealed that among these workers, productivity was at its lowest on Friday compared to Tuesday through Thursday. 

It goes on to show that, functionally, a majority of your employees are already working a four-day workweek. Currently, they are doing it unofficially. Is it worth burning whatever kind of relational capital you have nurtured with your teams to force people to work on Fridays, or do we codify what is already happening and call it a perk?

We have three choices. We can embrace the four-day workweek and implement guardrails and boundaries to put structure around the shortened week. We can implement draconian policies and schedule 4 p.m. meetings every Friday, to ensure everyone is still at their desk working. Or we can keep ignoring the warning signs and hope it goes away.

Preparing for Next Steps

From management’s perspective, what are the next steps? We see three things that must happen to make the four-day workweek viable.

Measurement and accountability are key. To advance a four-day week, employees will have to demonstrate accountability and ensure their work is successfully completed on time. The tradeoff for a four-day workweek is measurable proof that you are productive during those four days. Employers need assurance that there won’t be scope creep in the wrong direction – e.g., weekends starting at noon on Thursdays, as opposed to noon on Fridays.  

Managers require tools for visibility to understand how team members are operating day-to-day, and to ensure they are on track of their goals. They need to be able to leverage available technology to identify short- and long-term trends and make decisions informed by contextualized data.

Adopt a new management style. As with the remote work model, to successfully implement a four-day workweek managers need to set clear expectations around goals. A mindset shift may also be required, as hours worked becomes less important than the productivity demonstrated and outcomes achieved. This reinforces the importance of measurement. The challenge is to hold your team members accountable, while giving them as much autonomy and freedom as possible. 

Establish policies that work for everyone. Management must figure out how to drive equity in a four-day workweek model, similar to the considerations that were required for those who work remotely and those who work on-site in the office. The reality is not every function within the organization can shut down on a Friday.  Your customer service-facing components must be on call five days a week. Do you then split the department into Team A and Team B; give Team A Monday off and Team B Friday off, and then the following week switch, so Team A gets Friday off and Team B Monday off? 

You’ll also want to consider when to schedule internal meetings. Our data reveals that Monday is also not the most productive of days, making it a good day to schedule these meetings. But if Team B isn’t working on Mondays, you’ll need to schedule a different day for the meeting.

Consider adopting a pilot program to determine the logistics and whether or not this is practical for your company. Monitor employee engagement and productivity, customer satisfaction and revenue growth.

Looking ahead

We are at a tipping point, where everything we know about the ideal work arrangement – from where we work to how many hours we work –  may be called into question. Is it time to rethink the traditional concept of the workweek, and let knowledge-based workers create their own working schedule (within reason)? Our data shows that people have a set amount of work and they're just stretching it across 40 hours, versus truly having 40 hours of work.

Is Tim Ferriss’ controversial call for the four-hour workweek more prescient than we could have imagined?

Disruption to traditional ways of doing things is about more than just that process or protocol. While we know that it will be challenging and even unwieldy as we navigate through, we are often unprepared for the long-term implications, many of which remain unknown for months or years to come. 

Most companies were unprepared for the transition to a remote workforce. The four-day workweek is on the horizon. How are you preparing?

Prodoscore’s insights into daily engagement and behavior can help leaders understand exactly how employees are working, encouraging better informed decisions that are rooted in data.  Contact us today for a demonstration.

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