July 27, 2021

4-Day Workweeks: Is this the Next Employee Scheduling Trend?

Organizations around the world are testing a new trend in employee scheduling: the 4-day workweek. For some, it offers a unique way to address business challenges without having to lose valuable talent, for others, it provides improved work-life balance for employees. Is your organization ready to consider this trend? Read on as we weigh the pros and cons of this new trend in workforce scheduling.

To begin, what is considered a 4-day workweek? Is it four days with longer, 10-hour days, or four days with standard, 8-hour days? The answer is really “whatever works best for your organization.” What would be more productive for your workforce? Traditionally, a 40-hour workweek is considered the standard practice for most U.S. companies. But today’s employees want to be able to balance work and home life. So how can companies juggle this change in time but also keep their employees on track with work? We’ll provide some examples of how other companies are adopting this new way of work life.

Managing Schedules Across Organizations

Determining a new schedule for your workforce that is beneficial for your company and employees is extremely important. And it is not as easy as it looks, the one-size-fits-all persona doesn’t work for all. Some may not be able to adjust well to the new schedule, others may thrive with the flexibility of it. It’s all about what is more fitting for your workforce. According to Jill Santopietro Panall, SHRM-SCP, owner of 21Oak HR Consulting in Boston, “Many modern workers are firmly in the ‘work to live’ bucket, rather than ‘live to work’ bucket. They value their time off, time with family and friends, and opportunities to rest and relax, {then} to come back to work with fresh perspectives and ideas.” The first thing to align on is if your days will be eight or 10 hours. Are you looking for a new way to get the same amount of work done or are you willing to cut back slightly a week’s productivity to offer employees a shorter workweek? Furthermore, some businesses are finding ways to cut the number of workdays without cutting the amount of work or pay.

Many organizations around the world have already kick-started this new employee scheduling practice and have seen improvements already. Spain and German organizations are taking their first step of experimenting with this idea and seeing how their workforce reacts to this change. According to Forbes magazine, “The Spanish government agreed to a 32-hour workweek over three years, without cutting workers’ compensation.” One of the largest trade union companies in Germany, IG Metall, is also seriously thinking about adapting the four-week employee scheduling idea. According to Reuters, Joerg Hofman, leader of IG Metall, said that “Companies had an interest in cutting hours rather than laying off staff, as this would allow them to retain skilled workers and save redundancy costs.” This concept has also been getting a great deal of attention from other places, including the United States. They, too, want to join the movement and take a swing at this idea to see if their businesses would succeed if they adopted this new way of work.

Opportunities & Obstacles

It still begs the questions:

  • How should the employees be able to handle the 4-days workweek?
  • Should companies allow their employees to have a flexible schedule where they can pick and choose the hours they want to work, but still have the same number of tasks to do?
  • Or should companies expect people to do the same amount of work but in a shorter amount of time?

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that having that traditional workforce schedule is not the only way to get work done. From going full-time remote to having hybrid schedules, more organizations are opening up to the idea of having a 4-day workweek. Now, whether it’s 8- or 10- hour days depends on what best suits the company’s agenda. Proponents of the idea say switching over to a schedule like this would bring in improvements like:

  • Better performance and a more productive workforce
  • Reduced commuting and business office costs
  • Improved quality of life for employees
  • Higher employee retention rates

Of course, there are some disadvantages in response to the new schedule hours. Some may fear that choosing the shorter 8-hour day would not allow as much time to schedule meetings, serve customers or meet deadlines. The longer, 10-hour days could potentially cause employees to feel more fatigued. Luckily, TCP’s workforce scheduling will help ease some of those issues. Our TimeClock Plus software helps make it easier on managers and allows employees to organize their time more efficiently. Hassle-free scheduling will help make the transition smoother from the traditional schedule to the new one.

A More Productive Workplace

Creating a work environment that retains employees and minimizes burnout is one of the main goals. This new workforce schedule can help reduce the workforce from feeling so drained during the week and improve productivity throughout the business. Not only can this help with employee satisfaction, but it can also improve work-life balance.

If this goes well for the organizations testing this approach, the traditional 5-day, 40-hour week schedule could be a thing of the past. This employee scheduling trend could mean employees and managers will see a more positive atmosphere in their workplace. According to study by United Kingdom-based Henley Business School, “The four-day week trend shows no sign of slowing down. Over a third of business leaders surveyed (34%), and nearly half (46%) of those in larger businesses, says making the switch to a four-day working week will be important for future business success, so we’re likely to see more trials and implementations in the coming years.”

Soon this trend could be carried out with more businesses around the world. Will business leaders begin to see the levels of productivity and employee participation rise? Time will only tell.

After all, having a happier workforce not only improves work production, but it also produces a more positive work environment.

“When employees are happy, they are your very best ambassadors”
– James Sinegal