Talent management is a topic that is increasingly on the minds of business leaders across all kinds of niches. The one thing any business needs in challenging times – and these are challenging times – is a talented, committed workforce. Achieving that is proving to be a lot easier said than done however.
In the attempt to attract and retain the talent they need to thrive in difficult times, businesses are trying all kinds of things, including a shift to a four day workweek.
The Four Day Work Week Explained
In 1956, U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon predicted a four-day work schedule in the near future. After more than a half century of debate and delay, the concept of a four-day workweek has gained renewed attention in recent years as a potential solution to issues such as work-life balance, employee burnout, and productivity.
While a four-day workweek may seem like a radical idea, it was once the norm. In the 19th century, when factory work dominated the employment landscape, workers toiled for 10-12 hours from Monday to Thursday and were then given three days off.
However, the shift to primarily office work, and the belief that working more days would result in greater profits have seen the ‘traditional’ workweek of five eight-hour days become the norm.
One of the misconceptions about a four day work week is that it leads to a reduction in hours worked. That’s not the idea. The schedules tested out by some larger corporations – including Microsoft – saw a 40 hour workweek condensed into four ten hour days.
It does not have to mean that everyone works Monday to Thursday and the business grinds to a halt on Friday either. Some firms trialing the concept stagger schedules so that their offices are always staffed, by allowing staff to work different schedules and choose their extra day off.
The Four Day Work Week and Talent Management
As leading talent management consultants, it’s that aspect of the four day workweek that we have been most interested in. We have also been actively experimenting with the concept within the firms that make up the Pearl Lemon Group. Scholarly research is one thing, but when you can share real-world findings with clients, it’s even better!
What have we found? Implementing a four-day workweek can have serious talent management advantages for organizations. Below are some of the benefits of a four-day workweek in terms of talent management:
Improved Employee Retention
By offering a four-day workweek, organizations can improve employee retention. When employees have more time to pursue personal interests and spend time with their families, they are likely to be happier and more satisfied with their jobs.
As a result, they may be less likely to leave their current employer in search of a better work-life balance. This can be a significant advantage for organizations, as high employee turnover is costly and disruptive.
Attracting Top Talent
In today’s job market, employees are looking for more than just a good salary. They want a work environment that supports their personal and professional goals. By offering a four-day workweek, organizations can differentiate themselves from competitors and attract top talent.
Candidates are likely to be attracted to companies that prioritize work-life balance and offer flexible work arrangements. This is specially true if you are trying to recruit Gen Z and younger Millennial staff, as a large body of research, and our own experience, has found that when given a hypothetical choice between a four day work week or another buzzed about option – unlimited vacation time – these employees overwhelming opted for the Monday-Thursday option.
A four-day workweek can also lead to increased productivity, as employees may be more motivated to work efficiently and effectively when they know they have an extra day off.
Additionally, studies have shown that working fewer hours can actually lead to higher productivity, as employees are less likely to become burned out or overwhelmed. This can be a significant advantage for organizations that are looking to improve their bottom line.
Better Employee Engagement
By offering a four-day workweek, organizations can improve employee engagement. When employees feel that their employer cares about their well-being and is willing to offer flexible work arrangements to improve it, they are likely to be more engaged and committed to their jobs. This can lead to higher levels of job satisfaction, lower turnover rates, and increased productivity.
Improved Diversity and Inclusion
A four-day workweek helps organizations improve diversity and inclusion. By offering flexible work arrangements, companies can make it easier for employees with caregiving responsibilities, disabilities, or other personal commitments to participate in the workforce. This can allow organizations to tap into a broader pool of talent and improve diversity and inclusion within their workforce.
Finally, a four-day workweek can also lead to cost savings for organizations. With fewer working hours, companies may be able to reduce overhead costs, such as utilities, rent, and equipment. Additionally, a happier and more engaged workforce may lead to lower costs associated with turnover and recruitment.
Would a Four Day Work Week Suit Your Business?
Implementing a four-day workweek is no small task, and for some businesses, it is not even an option. There is no one-size-fits-all blueprint for a four-day workweek either, as each unique business will need to follow the path that best suits the way they need to operate.
To successfully transition to a four-day workweek, businesses must alter the way they conduct business. The secret to a shorter workweek without sacrificing productivity lies in four areas.
- Defining expectations clearly
- Evaluating performance
- Making changes in communication styles
- Testing the changes.
The ability to manage expectations from the start will be one of the biggest keys to a successful transformation.
The four-day workweek is inherently reciprocal. Employees should have clear expectations from the organization regarding limits (such as no emailing from Friday through Sunday), but they should also be held accountable for upholding those commitments.
The data show that employers shouldn’t expect a fall in productivity. The majority of research results on a four-day workweek shift pattern, show the opposite.
Crucially, it is the duty of team leaders to organize tasks so that workers have the flexibility they need to complete their work within the new amount of time.
The first step to getting rid of endless meetings from their schedules and converting to asynchronous communication is to clean up their calendars. By doing so, you’ll work more efficiently, avoid misunderstandings, and gain valuable time.
The best method to set expectations in a constructive way is through a top-down approach. Asking your staff to embrace async communication and be thrilled about a four-day workweek without leading by example won’t go over well.
Evaluation of Performance
In order to determine whether the new working style seems to be as advantageous in the real world as it does in theory, you will make sure to specify the metrics being used to assess effectiveness.
They should include both quantitative and qualitative elements because doing so usually produces the most comprehensive results.
For instance, if measuring productivity is your aim, you will want to think about how to determine whether a five-day workweek accomplished more measurable tasks than a four-day workweek does each week, month, and quarter.
You’ll need to factor in a lot more than that though. You should determine if the four day workweek results in fewer absences (research says it will) and survey employees about their views on the difference the change has made.
Changes in Communication
Before implementing the new working style, evaluate the internal communication channels and meeting environment at your organization.
Given that nearly half of organizations operated remotely to some extent between 2020 and 2022, your staff has probably made substantial progress in this area. Some strategies you used to optimize remote operations will be very beneficial throughout the four-day workweek.
It will be essential to be able to answer repeatedly to the same project, idea, or conversation, for example, or to communicate asynchronously. This is especially true if you imagine that some employees work from Monday through Thursday, others from Tuesday through Friday, etc.
In order to increase productivity on weekdays, you must first address the overabundance of meetings that most firms experience. Tools like WhatsApp are typically just as useful as meetings in office settings, it just takes an organizational mindset shift in many cases to prove that.
Testing the Modification
You wouldn’t modify your website copy or product launch budget without first running a bunch of tests right? That’s why for many companies considering experimenting with a four-day workweek at your company for a period of time that isn’t too long—say, a few months—but enough to allow workers to adjust, will make the most sense.
Set benchmarks and don’t commit to moving forward until everyone feels comfortable with the test. To remove friction, experiment and respond to the data like you would with anything else in business.
If you are considering experimenting in this way, a consultant can be a huge help. At Pearl Lemon Consultants we can offer the expertise of not just our world class talent management consultants but also our IT consulting teams (to help you get all of those new communication tools up and running) our lean business consulting experts and more. Contact us today and let’s discuss how Pearl Lemon Consultants can help you.