Should You Transition to a Four-Day Work Week?


Recently, California legislators proposed a bill that would essentially shorten the work week from five days to four. Bill AB2932 lowers the maximum threshold for overtime pay from 40 hours to 32 hours for companies with more than 500 employees in the state. This comes on the heels of Rep. Mark Takano (D – Calif.) introducing a similar bill at the federal level, according to Yahoo! Finance

Managing Work-Life Balance

No one thinks these bills will pass, but they speak to a broader conversation that HR leaders and the workers they lead have been having since the start of the pandemic. In the latest State of HR survey of HR leaders, burnout was listed as the greatest consequence of the pandemic, as well as one of the biggest challenges – along with blurring of personal and professional life – to employee engagement

In addition, respondents placed flexible work culture second to employee engagement and experience among their top priorities. More than 60% said they would keep flexible work among the pandemic policies they would keep. 

Despite the talk and the clear desire to address burnout and people being overworked, few employers have made the move to the four-day work week. Working Monday through Friday is the norm established by Ford Motor Company. Before Ford, workers only had the day off on Sunday. As long ago as 1950 labor unions began calling for four-day work weeks, according to BBC. 

REPORT: State of HR

All is not lost for proponents of the shorter work week. The 4 Day Week Global nonprofit organization is helping 38 North American and 50 British companies test the shorter week. Part of the deal is cutting out unnecessary meetings.

Recently, Forbes asked HR leaders to share their best practices for moving to this abbreviated work schedule. Many of them wrote about the struggle to fit the same amount of work into fewer days. Other challenges that came up included whether everyone should simply get off on Friday or if the days should be staggered, so there is always an employee on call.

READ: 7 Innovative Benefits for HR Leaders to Consider 

Others talked about the disconnect between employees and managers. Often, they are not on the same page. Maintaining customer service and determining whether to cut hours to 32 per week and pay accordingly or stick with 40 and have people work longer days. Regardless, these reports provide some universal advice: 

Consider the Business

A four-day work week is more feasible for some employers than it is for others. As a result, HR leaders considering such a transition should think about how this will effect employees, leaders, and customers. Then, they should plan accordingly. If workers will be doing the same work in less time, they have to invest in resources and tools to help people become more efficient. 

Pilot the Program

Working four days sounds so great that some people jump right into it. However, taking time to test how this really works. Measure productivity and performance to determine whether the company is still getting the same or better results. Talk to workers and managers to determine how everyone is feeling about the program. 

Spell Out Performance Expectations

HR leaders should help managers determine exactly what they expect from each employee, who will be working on a four-day schedule. No one should be reading minds. Each person should know what is expected and what tools are at their fingertips to fulfill these obligations. 

READ: How to Modernize HR Tech for the Times

Set the Tone

Employers should respect boundaries and refrain from sending messages on the company-wide days off. This sends the message that everyone should be buying into this new schedule for work. Trust and accountability will serve as a the basis for executing such a schedule. 

The crowdfunding platform Kickstarter is among the companies testing the four-day work week. Primary, a children’s clothing retailer, has already opted into this abbreviated schedule. Considering the way the pandemic has HR leaders transforming work, the four-day work week might not be a unicorn for long. 

Photo by Andrey Grushnikov for Pexels

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