The Covid-19 pandemic has changed work norms drastically. Most people relocated from their uncomfortable chairs in offices to their comfy couches at home. Work hours have changed, some people stay behind their laptops for over ten hours a day while others can take a nap between 9 to 5.
It also made some employers re-evaluate their priorities and as the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, many are thinking about the concept of a four-day work week.
A four-day work-week, or a compressed work schedules, is an arrangement where a workplace has its employees work over the course of four days per week rather than the more customary five.
Has Anyone Tried the Four-Day Work Week?
While a four-day work week is a relatively new concept, some companies have already tested it with promising results for both employees and employers. Iceland’s capital started a pilot as far back as 2015 that involved 2,500 people. The trials, in which workers were paid the same amount for shorter hours, took place between 2015 and 2019. Researchers said the trial was an overwhelming success. Productivity remained the same or improved in the majority of workplaces.
Some companies, like Perpetual Guardian from New Zealand, are also experimenting with the same method. In Japan, Panasonic is offering an optional four-day work week to its employees.
Major companies in Canada have started the same trial as well. Toronto-based recruitment firm The Leadership Agency, Tulip Inc., a software company in Kitchener, Ont., and a small municipality in Nova Scotia are all experimenting with it.
The 40-hour work week was adopted in 1914 when Henry Ford scaled the work week down from 48 to 40 hours, correctly believing productivity would improve.
But now multiple researches show that the four-day work week can improve productivity even more. Not only does a four-day work week increase employee satisfaction, company commitment and teamwork, but it also decreases stress levels. Even better, reducing employees’ work schedules to a four-day work week doesn’t harm their productivity or company output.
Research on the Gender Pay Gap in England shows that roughly two million British people are not currently in employment due to childcare responsibilities and 89% of these people are women. A four-day work week would promote an equal workplace as employees would be able to spend more time with their families while remaining a better work commitment.
Less Carbon Footprint
Based on research, countries with shorter working hours have a smaller carbon footprint.
So Reducing the work week from five to four days could have environmental benefits too. Shortening the working week means that employees don’t need to commute as much and large office buildings are only in use four days a week.
Are There Any Disadvantages?
There are a number of studies that show implementing a four-day work-week can be difficult as it requires the right support, technology and workplace culture. It is also not as cost-effective as it seems.
There’s also certain industries that need more attendance and less work hours can lead to general dissatisfaction. There were cases during trials in which customers complained that they were unable to access government services with offices closed on a Friday.
Some employers also took the wrong approach while piloting the idea. Many confused the concept of a four-day work week with compressed hours. Employees who are expected to still work 35 hours, but across only four days will actually show decreased levels of productivity. It can also impact employees’ engagement, work-life balance and overall happiness. To achieve the desired effects, a four-day work week should consist of standard 7 hour work days.
Whether the idea is good or bad, it is likely that there may soon come a day where technology exceeds the capabilities of human employees. And at that time people need to make some drastic decisions regarding the future of work and how best to protect and promote human employees’ well-being.