Our COO 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 a business operate with a four-day work week and maintain 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. This 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’
Is the four-day work week the next industrial revolution?
Our CEO Neil McLeese also shared his thoughts on how the working environment is changing as we move past the COVID-19 era and how the working environment settles into the ‘new normal’.
I think we are in a very interesting time, as Covid-19 dramatically changed how and where we work, and now things are easing we are in a period where people are beginning to reflect on what has worked and what hasn’t worked as the working environment adapts, how can businesses move forward?
That seems to be one of the big outcomes from February 2020: everyone has re-evaluated their priorities.
At the minute we have businesses trying to figure out what to do with remote or hybrid working as the working environment is changing towards this on a more permanent basis with some companies backtracking on how the working environment is changing including large corporations such as Tesla and Apple.
UK trailing four-day work week
Most interestingly in Neil’s opinion the four-day work week trial started back in June in the UK and ran through to November. It is a joint trial with businesses in the UK, Ireland, the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand taking part.
The principle is that employees will get 100% pay for working 80% of the hours and deliver 100% productivity. In the UK there are 70 plus businesses taking part from chip shops to banks. Ultimately this is to try and improve employees’ well-being and is viewed as a triple dividend saying in that it helps employees, companies, and the dynamic. However, Neil comments on how he is looking forward to the post-trial angles and how they can be adapted for all businesses or only particular industries.
It is nearly 100 years since the transition from a 6-day week to a 5-day week so we are probably overdue a change but it may be that total flexibility rather than focusing on a set working week will be that change.
However, a question can be asked in the last 100 years technology has developed beyond what anyone could have imagined, with many tasks being completed in a matter of minutes – so as technology develops and we have smartphones, article intelligence, and laptops, can working time not be decreased?
Ask yourself, why should businesses have a four-day work week?
The key for business owners considering this is the question, ‘what am I trying to do achieve by doing this?’ If it is all about employee well-being, then there may be other ways of achieving this. Gallup Research suggests that better management, better pay, and more meaningful work could achieve an improvement in the well-being of employees.
A Harvard Research article (by Emma Russell, Caroline Murphy, and Esme Terry) counted out that a study of New Zealand’s move to a four-day work week found that work intensified as did the pressure of managers measuring and monitoring performance and productivity. So rather than creating well-being, benefits they saw workers struggling to meet the demands of their jobs, reducing hours by 20% doesn’t necessarily mean you reduce the work by 20% so where does it go? Some maybe reallocate putting more pressure on other employees or requiring companies to hire new employees which comes down to affordability and difficulty in recruiting.
Are your employees asking about a four-day work week? Contact us today for advice and guidance on how your business may be able to reduce employees’ work week to boost their productivity.
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