The New Workplace
Four-Day Work Week Being Put to the Test
Last century saw the advent of the five-day work week. Could this century bring the four-day work week? It’s unlikely to be the norm anytime soon, but several large-scale pilot programs are putting the concept to the test. Advocates say a 32-hour work week would improve the family lives and physical and mental health of workers, help the environment, and improve corporate efficiency.
Companies that have implemented a shorter work week tout it as a differentiator in the war for talent, appealing to workers seeking greater flexibility since the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2021 Henley Business School study found that 68% of leaders of British companies that implemented a four-day work week reported it helped them attract and retain employees and 78% reported employees felt less stress at work. Outdoor travel technology company The Wanderlust Group reported that revenue increased 61% and job applications soared 800% in the first year after implementing a four-day work week.
Meetings and e-mails are the primary time-wasting targets of companies implementing four-day work weeks. Unity, a London public relations firm, has banned all internal meetings longer than five minutes and limited client meetings to a half-hour. Workers set lights on their desks to green if they are free to talk and red if they don’t wish to be interrupted. Other companies have set aside specific hours when employees are not to check e-mails or take phone calls in order to focus on project work. A cultural shift would be needed for four-day work weeks to make a dent in the American business landscape, given that office workers already struggle to stay unplugged on two-day weekends. Whether productivity improvements can be sustained beyond pilot program timeframes is also an open question.
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