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Shorter Workweeks Work!

Could 2023 be the year we forgo the five-day workweek? Shorter workweeks have been talked about for years, but for the first time, the idea is gaining serious traction in the U.S. Even though the 40-hour workweek has been standard practice for decades, it’s actually a relic from the 1920s when Henry Ford found that his workers performed best when they worked at or around 40 hours a week. Today, there is no official full-time workweek, but the Fair Labor and Standards Act does require overtime to be paid to nonexempt employees who work in excess of 40 hours.

In the wake of the pandemic, more and more employees are voicing their desire to move from five days of work to four days of work per week in order to have more flexibility and a better work-life balance. Four-day workweek trials have begun to emerge across the globe, specifically in England, Belgium, Sweden and Ireland. Following in their footsteps, the United States, Canada and New Zealand will launch their own short workweek experiments in 2023.

From June to December of 2022, 61 companies in the U.K. ran a test of a four-day workweek for a total of 2,900 employees and the results were unquestionably positive. After undergoing the trial, 86% of participating companies said they’re likely or extremely likely to implement a four-day workweek permanently. When they do, their employees would be expected to maintain the same workload and receive the same salary as a result. That’s because the companies in the study found that productivity was not affected by a reduction in hours worked. Not only did productivity not suffer, but the organizations also found that there were reduced costs associated as well.

The well-being of employees is the main reason that companies don’t experience negative side effects from a shorter workweek. Advocacy groups, 4 Day Week Global and 4 Day Week Campaign, along with research organization, Autonomy, and researchers at the University of Cambridge, Boston College, published a report that showed that when given the opportunity to work a shorter workweek, 71% of respondents reported lower levels of burnout, and 39% reported less stress. As a result, companies saw their employees take 65% less sick days and personal days, and the number of resignations they received dropped by more than half. On average, instead of companies losing money, they actually increased their revenue by 1.4%.

The evidence suggesting that shorter workweeks have positive implications for mental and physical health is growing. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and “The Great Resignation,” employees have been very vocal about the changes they want to see take place in workplace culture. They have demanded over and over again that they want a better work-life balance in order to stay mentally, physically and emotionally well. Other evidence points to a four-day workweek having additional benefits such as a reduced carbon footprint and reduced operating costs and expenses.

Ten companies that have already trialed or transitioned to a four-day workweek for some or all of their workforce include Amazon, Basecamp, Bolt, Buffer, Kickstarter, Microsoft, Panasonic, Shopify, thredUp and Toshiba. Of their four-day workweek trial, Kickstarter’s Director of Business Operations, Wolf Owczarek, reported, “The consensus is that the four-day work week has enabled us all to live brighter, fuller lives and has allowed us to return to work refreshed… In addition to benefiting us each individually, the four-day work week has also paid off for the company as a whole, through productivity gains that have resulted from staff finding smarter ways to work.”

Employing smarter work strategies to increase efficiency and productivity doesn’t have to be hard. For example, we counsel our clients to work smarter by cutting out unproductive activities like unnecessary meetings. These activities not only tend to be unproductive, but they also tend to lower employee morale and increase worker burnout. Anyone who’s sat through a meeting they didn’t need to attend will vouch for that. Other ways to work smarter might include focusing on specific tasks until completion rather than being distracted by every new item that comes down the pike. Other strategies like time blocking, working in “monk mode” or time tracking can increase efficiency and improve time management as well.

If you’re thinking about trialing a shorter workweek, we say go for it. The research is in and the verdict is out – four-day workweeks work! Having a thriving, happy, fulfilled workforce is not antithetical to higher productivity and increased revenues. As companies leverage flexibility as an incentive for attracting and retaining new employees, we will likely see shorter workweeks become common practice in a wide variety of industries in 2023 and beyond – not only in the United States, but globally as well.

If you’re serious about increasing efficiency and profitability by adopting a four-day workweek, contact us! We can work with you to create a personalized strategy to transition your employees across all business functions.