A few years ago, we couldn’t have imagined a hybrid work environment. Equally, a four-day workweek seemed like the stuff of dreams.
But, with hybrid work now commonplace, could the four-day workweek be about to revolutionize the world of work all over again?
Several four-day workweek trials are currently in progress, leading us to wonder what adopting this new style of working would mean for the hybrid workplace.
What is the four-day workweek?
The four-day workweek is an idea that’s been around for a while now. Some experts believe that working fewer days per week can boost workplace productivity while reducing the risk of employee burnout.
Different four-day workweek forms
In trials so far, the four-day working week has taken two forms.
1. Reduced hours
Employees work their standard 9-5, but over only four days. Despite working reduced hours over the course of a week, employees receive the same full-time salary.
2. The same hours
Employees work their usual full-time hours, condensed into four days. This means they work four long days and have one day off per week. They receive the same full-time salary.
Four-day workweek trials
Several four-day workweek trials have been set up over the last few years to determine what effect this model of work has on employees and businesses.
The Icelandic government ran a four-day workweek trial from 2015 to 2019 where workers moved from a 40-hour week to a 35 or 36-hour week worked over four days.
The results? An “overwhelming success,” according to researchers.
The 2,500 employees who took part in the trial reported lower stress levels. They also said that their health and work-life balance had improved, and workplace productivity wasn’t affected.As a result of the trial, 86% of Icelandic workers now work shorter hours for the same pay or will earn the right to do so in the coming years.
Microsoft Japan conducted a short-term trial back in 2019.
As part of The Work-Life Choice Challenge Summer 2019 project, workers were given five consecutive Fridays off without changing their pay.
The results of the trial were impressive:
- Employee happiness rose
- Meetings were more efficient
- Productivity jumped by 40%
- Employees took 25% less time off
- Electricity use was down 23%
- 92% of employees said they liked the shorter week
The largest four-day workweek trial so far began in the UK in June 2022 and is running for six months. As part of the trial, employees work 32 or 34 hours per week, spread over four days, with no loss of pay.
The hope is that 100% productivity can be maintained even though working hours have dropped to 80%. But we’ll have to watch this space to see how it all works in reality.
How does the four-day workweek compare with the hybrid working environment?
Both hybrid work and the four-day workweek offer alternatives to the traditional work model. But how would they work in conjunction with one another?
They’re both forms of flexible working
Both hybrid work and the four-day workweek give employees greater control over their work-life balance. But neither necessarily gives an employee control over their daily schedule.
Right now, employees are looking for flexible working options over everything else. They want to feel like they have options and a choice in how they spend their days. Offering hybrid working, a four-day workweek, or both is a great way to give employees and prospective candidates what they want.
Employees see them both as a benefit
Having experienced WFH and hybrid work models, employees now place huge importance on flexible working.
In fact, 66% of employees say they would look for another job if their current employer didn’t offer remote or hybrid work.
And 86% said they would prefer to work longer hours over four days than continue with the current five-day working week.
Faced with fierce competition for talent, businesses are taking note. According to Gartner’s research, 74% of organizations offer flexible working to attract and retain the best employees.
They both help to cut costs for both employees and employers
Spending less time in the office — as the result of a hybrid or four-day workweek model — means money saved.
Employees save on the daily commute. Working parents may also be able to reduce their childcare costs.
Businesses get a piece of the pie too. They save on office overheads, like energy bills and office resources. They may even be able to rethink the office entirely, focusing on collaborative workspaces and cutting down on the desk space they currently own or rent.
Businesses may even find they can reduce or repurpose their real estate holdings. Companies could rent out their office spaces every Friday (if that’s the day you’re using as your company day off) or downsize your office space altogether.
Can they work together?
Hybrid work and the four-day workweek have a lot in common. But they’re not the same.
Forward-thinking companies may choose to adopt one model or another. Or they may choose to combine the two, asking employees to work four days per week, and splitting their time between home and a shared workspace at the office.
While possible, this would require a rethink of hybrid arrangements. If your employees worked fewer days per week, would you want them to spend a more significant proportion of those days working face-to-face with colleagues in an office environment?
The answer to that question will vary depending on your industry, organization, and even your department.
The four-day workweek is another part of the future of work
Just when we felt we were getting our heads around hybrid working, another game-changing workplace concept comes to light.
We imagine that by the end of the UK trial later this year, there will be lots more food for thought about the four-day workweek and its viability.
In the meantime, it’s worth gauging interest in the four-day workweek within your organization — and thinking about how it could work alongside current hybrid working arrangements.
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