Are 4-day work weeks and flexible hours the future of full-time?
A four-day work week seems attractive to workers. Perhaps alarming for employers.
A bill introduced in the California legislature earlier this year proposed a regular rate of pay for 32 hours of work per week, with overtime starting after that. The measure stalled in committee for lack of broad support but could resurface in 2023.
Meanwhile, 4 Day Week Global, a non-profit foundation associated with the University of Oxford, is piloting a six-month trial of a four-day working week « with no loss of pay for employees ». More than three dozen companies in the United States and Canada are participating in the experiment, with a total of 150 organizations and 7,000 employees involved worldwide.
Of more than 1,000 US adult employees surveyed by research firm Qualtrics in January, 92% said they would support their employer for a four-day work week; 79% said it would help mental health and 82% said it would make them more productive.
Will more employers accept the change?
CHANGE CAN BE DIFFICULT
“I’ve always been curious about burnout. It really affects those who should thrive,” says Lisa Belanger, CEO of ConsciousWorks in Canmore, Alberta. She consults companies on well-being at work. In her quest to find out « how work is supposed to be, » she decided to explore a four-day work week herself.
The results have been mixed, at best, she says.
“I think I’ve failed so far in my own personal experience,” Belanger says. Business travel plans or other work-related responsibilities often interrupted his fifth day off.
« One of the reasons why it’s so hard for me, and for most people, to do a four-day workweek is that other people are working that fifth day, so you get emails. -mails and you’re drawn in, » says Bélanger.
CHANGING CONSUMER BEHAVIOR AND EXPECTATIONS
“People realize that while this may be an intriguing or interesting idea, there are likely tradeoffs,” says Benjamin Granger, head of employee experience consulting services at Qualtrics. He says the company’s research indicates concerns about customer frustration if staff changes impact response time.
Widespread adoption should reach a critical mass, where companies believe they need to adopt a shorter workweek to be competitive in the job market, he adds. And consumer behavior and customer expectations and services should be reshaped.
“We’re not even close yet,” he says.
If it’s not a four-day workweek, there are other levers to pull when it comes to workplace flexibility, says Granger.
These could include perks that make a job more attractive, like choosing the hours you want to work rather than the usual 9 to 5, or the ability to run errands during the workday.
FEW EMPLOYEES WILL BE READY TO TAKE A SALARY CUT
Less than 4 in 10 (37%) employees surveyed by Qualtrics would take a pay cut of 5% or more for a four-day work week. But nearly three-quarters (72%) of respondents said a four-day work week would mean they would have to work longer days.
However, 10-hour days are often not conducive to childcare. And if a company offers to pay only four days of eight hours each, it could indicate that a shorter workweek could be the result of a company trying to cut expenses.
« I think there’s a lot of work and research an organization has to do before it pulls the trigger, » says Granger.
A four-day workweek — or other workplace flexibility — could start with a series of talks. If there’s interest on both sides of the payroll, Granger suggests a trade-off analysis: « Statistically look at the factors that people would be willing to trade, and would it be worth it to them? » If interest remains strong, the organization could launch a pilot program with a small group of employees before a wider rollout.
If a four-day workweek isn’t in your near future, Belanger offers these ideas employees might be looking for — and employers to consider:
— Occasional long weekends. Belanger says it allows time to pass without the stressful “work is piling up while I’m away” feeling during longer vacations.
— A Friday without a meeting or a reduction in the number of meetings overall.
— E-mails, instant messaging or SMS interruptions. “Telepression” — the compulsion to respond quickly to work-related messages of any kind — is a real thing, Belanger says.
« You need a few hours every day that you’re absolutely not working – 100% work-free, » for mental health, she adds.
This article was provided to The Associated Press by personal finance website NerdWallet. Hal M. Bundrick is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @halmbundrick.
Psychology Today: Do you suffer from telepression? It’s time to heal https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-wide-wide-world-psychology/201504/are-you-suffering-telepressure-time-the-cure
NerdWallet: How to get what you want at your next job https://bit.ly/nerdwallet-job-negotiation-tips
Hal M. Bundrick of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press