A four-day workweek sounds appealing to workers — and possibly alarming to employers.
A bill introduced in the California legislature earlier this year proposed a regular pay rate for 32 hours of work per week, with overtime kicking in after that. The measure stalled in committee for a lack of broad support but could resurface in 2023.
Meanwhile, 4 Day Week Global, a non-profit foundation associated with Oxford University, is piloting a six-month trial of a four-day workweek “with no loss of pay for employees.” More than three dozen companies in Canada and the U.S. are participating in the experiment, with a total of 150 organizations and 7,000 employees involved worldwide.
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Lisa Belanger, chief executive officer of workplace well-being consultancy ConsciousWorks, says in her quest to find “how work is meant to be” she decided to explore a four-day workweek herself. Results have been mixed, at best. “I think I’ve failed so far in my own personal experiment. One of the reasons it’s so challenging for me — and most people — to do a four-day workweek is other people are working on that fifth day, so you’re getting emails and you’re getting pulled in.”
Among more than 1,000 U.S. employees surveyed by research firm Qualtrics in January, 92 per cent said they’d support their employer going to a four-day workweek. Eight in 10 (82 per cent) said it would make them more productive and 79 per cent said it would help their mental health. “People are realizing, while this might be an intriguing or interesting idea, there’s probably some trade-offs,” says Benjamin Granger, the firm’s head of employee experience advisory services.
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He says widespread adoption would have to reach critical mass, where companies believe they have to adopt a shorter workweek to compete in the workforce. In addition, consumer behaviour and customer expectations and services would need to be reshaped. “We’re not even close to that yet.”
If it’s not a four-day workweek, there are other levers employers can pull when it comes to workplace flexibility, says Granger, referring to flexible hours or the ability to run errands during the workday.
A four-day workweek or other workplace flexibility might begin with a series of discussions. If there’s interest on both sides of the payroll, he suggests a trade-off analysis. “Look statistically at the factors that people would be willing to trade off — and would it be worth it to them?
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