by Kevin Coupe
The Washington Post has a story about a pilot in the UK in which "dozens of companies there took part in the world’s largest trial of the four-day workweek - and a majority of supervisors and employees liked it so much they’ve decided to keep the arrangement. In fact, 15 percent of the employees who participated said 'no amount of money' would convince them to go back to working five days a week."
According to the story, "Companies that participated could adopt different methods to 'meaningfully' shorten their employees’ workweeks — from giving them one day a week off to reducing their working days in a year to average out to 32 hours per week — but had to ensure the employees still received 100 percent of their pay."
Companies that participated could adopt different methods to “meaningfully” shorten their employees’ workweeks — from giving them one day a week off to reducing their working days in a year to average out to 32 hours per week — but had to ensure the employees still received 100 percent of their pay."
Once the pilot was completed, "employees reported a variety of benefits related to their sleep, stress levels, personal lives and mental health, according to results published Tuesday. Companies’ revenue 'stayed broadly the same' during the six-month trial, but rose 35 percent on average when compared with a similar period from previous years."
The bottom line: "Of the 61 companies that took part in the trial, 56 said they would continue to implement four-day workweeks after the pilot ended, 18 of which said the shift would be permanent. Two companies are extending the trial. Only three companies did not plan to carry on with any element of the four-day workweek."
The notion of as four-day workweek, though in some ways it plays against the idea that companies ought to foster a sense of ownership among employees at all levels. When I've talked to college students about their work-life expectations, my general argument has been they shouldn't think about things like 40-hour weeks … they should try to find a job that brings them enough satisfaction that they spent the time necessary to a) get the job done, and b) make themselves the go-to people within their organizations.
(This is not to say that I don't believe in work-life balance, though I prefer "work-life integration." I've always believed that if companies want employees to feel invested in their work, business leaders have to invest in their workers - and that means understanding the importance of time off and the fact that people have personal responsibilities to which they to attend. All this requires nuance and maturity, however, which often are not valued in 2023 America. But I digress…)
There are industries in which the idea of a four-day workweek is problematic, and retail could be one of them … one of the things that I would caution retailers to be careful about is creating as bifurcated system in which office employees have different rules than store employees. That's not good for the culture.
But I do think that this is the kind of innovation that businesses ought to consider, and perhaps even test, to see if it could serve as a differential advantage when appealing to employees while having a positive impact on productivity and culture.
Maybe, under the right circumstances, four actually could be greater than five.
Which would be an Eye-Opener.