The Shorter, Flexible Workweek

Dec 29, 2022

Don’t look now, but business as usual is about to be turned on its ear. Again.

A recent trial study conducted by 4 Day Week Global reveals that a four-day workweek is a huge boost to productivity. The pilot, which ran for six month, followed 3,300 workers and 70 companies as they adopted a temporary four-day workweek. The workers would get 100% pay for 80% of their usual time.

The results: a shorter workweek is good for business and for employee productivity. Businesses report an 8.14% revenue increase during the trail period and a 37.55% increase in revenue over the same six-month period of the previous year. Employees were reporting being less burned out (by 67%), exercising more (23.7%) and feeling just as or more productive and doing a better job at work (51/7%).

Companies agree: the trial companies rated their overall productivity experience 7.7 on a scale of 0-10 with 10 being very positive. They were equally positive on their organizations’ performance during the trial period (7.6). (Included in these results are the experiences of 12 companies whose operations are fully remote.)

Even better news: Both the companies and employees in the trial think the switch is a change for the better. None of the companies in the trial were planning to return to the five-day workweek. A surprising 97% of employees who responded to the survey said they want to continue the four-day week.

The bottom line: In a competitive labor market with more employees demanding flexible working conditions, the data suggests that giving them that flexibility is actually good for business.

Don’t think so? Take recent data released by Microsoft Japan. After implementing the four-day workweek, the company reported at 40% increase in productivity.

The same goes for offering more flexibility in where your employee works. In-house studies conducted by Best Buy, British Telecom, and Dow Chemical show that remote work can be a benefit: Each company reports that their remote workers are 35%-40% more productive than in-house colleagues. American Express remote employees were 43% more productive than office-based staff. And AT&T reported a savings of $150 million in extra hours of productivity from telecommuting employees[1] not to mention a $30 million-per-year savings in real estate needs.

Your organization can realize similar results by adopting a more flexible work culture. Some of the benefits include:

  • Better productivity and accuracy
  • Increased revenue
  • Happier employees
  • Better employee attraction/retention results

Offering more flexibility does require a shift in management style. We recommend:

Setting clear expectations.

Employees are much more productive when they know what the goals are. Communicate one-on-one with your employees to talk over how their roles fit into the larger company goals. Set performance benchmarks and communicate with employees to make sure they’re meeting expectations. This allows you to add any retraining, mentoring or coaching that your employee may need, which helps keep productivity higher over time.

Keep communication flowing.

Employees work better and feel much more connected from nearly any location if there is a real effort to engage them regularly. Talk with employees daily. Meet one-on-one with them weekly. Give them multiple avenues for giving and receiving feedback. Keep those video cameras on so that every employee sees and is seen by the rest of the team and managers.

Rethink management style.

With the emergence of employees in nearly any location, managing them as you would an in-house team simply doesn’t make sense. The hours-worked model of employee management may not be the most productive for your team. As you reimagine the number of days per week your employees work, try reimagining those hours they work, as well. Some employees thrive in early morning or late evening. If your employees meet their benchmarks and performance goals, does it really matter if they did it in 6 hours instead of 8?

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

It bears repeating; Communication is key to a successful flexible work culture. Schedule regular virtual meetings with individual employees and teams. Keep them short and to the point and always allow feedback. Create shared folders so that you and your employee have access to discussion notes and the goals you’ve set together. Use team meetings to establish ownership/accountability on projects. The same goes for issues. Appoint someone to explore solutions, then discuss at the next meeting.

The more your organization focuses on collaborative communication and action, the more involved and engaged your employees will be no matter where they work or how many days per week you operate. Proactive engagement helps with morale and with attracting new employees.

As work transforms, the more flexible your organization is, the better able you’ll be to respond. The agile company is one that can transition faster as new work models emerge, and one that can attract and retain top talent. Is your organization ready?



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