A four-day workweek may be gaining mainstream momentum in corporate Canada as workplaces continue to fine tune schedules and working conditions, suggests new research.
A survey by recruitment firm Robert Half Canada Inc. found 91 per cent of senior managers said they would support a four-day workweek for their team. Most managers also anticipate their company will transition to a shorter working week within the next five years.
Among workers, nearly three-quarters said they would put in four 10-hour days in exchange for an extra day off a week. Offering workers the option of a four-day workweek could support employee retention, productivity and well-being, according to the research.
“Giving people the autonomy to create their own schedule demonstrates a level of trust and that has shown to really boost morale and productivity,” says Mike Shekhtman, senior regional director with Robert Half.
While shift workers such as nurses and police officers have long worked condensed weeks, the coronavirus pandemic shook up workplace culture and the ubiquity of working a nine-to-five workday, five days a week in an office. “It shifted the work paradigm and the way we think and operate,” he says. “We’re at a pivot point where people are trying to reimagine with a blank canvas what the best model would look like to support the work and expectations of a position but also align with what people are looking for.”
The nine-to five workday — and later the five-day workweek — was widely adopted during the Industrial Revolution. It hasn’t changed much since, says Sandeep Aujla, chief executive officer of Multilevel Leadership Consulting Inc. “We moved from the industrial era to the information era and we never changed. But the pandemic has forced us to reconsider our work schedule expectations.”
While a four-day workweek might be the right fit for some people and organizations, she says it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. “I don’t believe in global solutions. I personally really believe that flexibility is the key. The solution is to think creatively and say, ‘Let’s meet people where they are at,’ as opposed to imposing a blanket solution on everybody.”
A four-day workweek can mean two different things: a compressed week or a reduced week. In a compressed model, employees generally work 10 hours per day for four days per week.
Many employees are already working 10-hour days, says Sarah McVanel, chief recognition officer at human resources firm Greatness Magnified. “A lot of people are working those longer hours anyway. They put their kids to bed and then they get back on the computer. Lots of professionals are working too many hours and that’s what’s burning them out.”
Meanwhile, in a reduced week, both the total number of workdays and the total work hours are reduced, such as eight hours a day and four days a week.
A non-profit group called the 4 Day Week Global advocates for what it calls the ‘100-80-100 model’ — 100 per cent of the pay, 80 per cent of the time and 100 per cent of the productivity.
It’ ha launched a pilot in the U.K. involving more than 70 organizations. A survey conducted at the half-way point of the experiment found 88 per cent of participating organizations reported the four-day workweek worked well for their enterprise, according to a report by the International Labour Organization. It found 49 per cent of employees reported improved productivity, while 46 per cent reported achieving the same level of productivity despite a reduced work week.