With hybrid working emerging as the frontrunner in the evolving workplace, ‘bare minimum’ workdays is one of many flexible working policies employers are testing to determine the arrangement that best suits the needs of their employees and businesses.

Bare minimum workdays allow employees to work at a much more relaxed pace without distractions. More employers and job candidates have realized they prefer to pack the hustle and bustle of the workweek into a more condensed schedule, so they can have one day to exhale and take a longer lunch or end their workday early, says Michael French, national director of client solutions in Canada at Robert Half Inc.

Employers are incorporating this concept into their workplace policies in a number of ways. In 2021, Toronto Metropolitan University introduced a mental-health initiative to combat burnout that includes ‘meeting-free Fridays.’ In 2022, LinkedIn Corp. introduced monthly meeting-free days as part of its mental-health resources. Juno College of Technology went a step further and gradually moved employees to a four-day workweek in 2022.

Read: Juno College phasing in a four-day workweek for all employees

In the post-coronavirus pandemic era of ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘rage applying,’ employers have recognized flexibility in the workplace is critical to remaining competitive in a tight recruitment landscape.

“Companies are still very challenged to find great people,” says French, noting while compensation is an important factor for most job seekers, flexibility is fast becoming a must-have offering in employers’ total rewards package.

However, flexibility can have a number of different meanings, he says, pointing out hybrid working is more than just where employees are situated during the workday. It’s also about providing time for staff to connect with the things and people that matter in their personal lives — whether that’s dropping the kids off at school, taking them to soccer practice, taking a coffee break or making time for self-care.

“Employers should speak with senior managers to hear what flexible working policies they’d like to see implemented.”

Read: ‘Quiet quitting’ a rallying cry for more focus on work-life balance, employee engagement

Flexible workplaces are seeing much higher retention, says French. “When you think of the opportunity cost of someone wanting flexibility, it may not be easy to coordinate, but it’s usually far easier than losing and replacing staff.”

Still, setting up and managing a hybrid workplace isn’t a simple task, he adds, noting it takes a much different work style to manage flexible and hybrid teams. While monitoring staff and their work productivity used to be the crux of team leaders’ duties, trust management is now a critical skill for building the future workplace.

From the perspective of employees, many are crystal clear they aren’t prepared to go back to 12-hour workdays, including commuting time. When leaders insist on returning to the inflexible working arrangement of the pre-pandemic period, it can affect employees’ mental health, says French.

“[Employers] have . . . an endless [supply of] options . . . to . . . be flexible and customize what it’s going to take to make [employees] successful. It’s more of a partnership between [staff] and [their] leader and company . . . versus making [employees] fit into a mold that may have made somebody else successful.”

Read: Flexible workplaces a win-win for workers, employers: report