Four-day work week and maintaining productivity


Our managing director Helen Hardy speaks about the four-day work week and maintaining productivity with the Irish News.

COVID-19 was a curveball for everyone. Businesses and employees had to learn fast and quickly adapt to the ongoing message of ‘stay at home’, as well as implement new ways of working. This meant taking on a work from home structure, stricter shift-working regimes and some businesses having to down tools until they figured it all out.

How can business operate with a four-day work week and maintaining productivity

If anything, the last few years have shown us that our working lives are adaptable to change. Many would say that they now have a sustainable work-life balance. Which is why it is easy to understand that businesses might be considering a four-day work week as we leave restrictions behind and head back to the office.

However, change can also bring some teething issues. With the prospect of “more time off” on the horizon, you might think it can make employees feel a little less focused and possibly less productive. Although the trials have shown this not to be true then how exactly do you ensure this happens?

With that in mind, there are many challenges for employers in regards to managing productivity through change, whilst at the same time ensuring work culture and employee welfare does not suffer.

Here are some top tips for a four-day work week and managing productivity:

1. Re-examine how the team does their work and think of new ways to achieve similar (or better) outcomes

• Get your employees involved, figure out how daily tasks are carried out and how they can be simplified without losing impact

2. Decrease meeting times

• This has already happened with the introduction of platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Input processes to ensure this continues as we move back into the office

3. Try different communication styles

• Introduction or restructuring of CRM and project management tools

4. Introduce a rotational schedule so customers are not impacted

• If Friday’s will become the day with most employees off then ensure there is enough cover to facilitate this

5. Be aware and show support

• Check-in with one another occasionally and see how the change is affecting employees

• Be mindful of individual workloads figure out what will work best – every employee is different

6. Misconduct and attendance

It is important that employees and employers understand that there is no room for misconduct and/or attendance issues during the change to a four-day working week or any other time of the year. This type of behaviour disrupts colleagues, productivity and customers.

When dealing with these problems it is important to do the following:

• Investigate before taking disciplinary action

• If taking disciplinary action consider options that mirror the level of the misconduct – someone could be overwhelmed, struggling with workload or life balance and it is important to look after your employee’s wellbeing. While also being mindful of how decisions will affect colleagues and workflow.

• Allow employees to improve – usually warnings, both verbal and written, are sufficient.

• If the issue is in the dismissal stages follow the correct procedures and learn from the experience.

7. Show people that they are valued

This is important to your current active workforce as they navigate their way through this change. How can you ensure everyone feels valued?

• Involve employees in the decisions of how the four-day working week will be rolled out

• Organise monthly competitions or giveaways

• Reward employees this could be in the form of a bonus, gifting, supportive emails and cards to show appreciation to name a few.

• Send gifts to those on a leave of absence to show the team is thinking of them

• Be prepared to listen, learn and create change where feasible

• Discuss career progression and pathways

• Say ‘Thank You’