5 Factors to Consider Before Trialing a Four-Day Working Week
The past 18 months have necessitated a shift to working remotely, adjusting to more flexible hours, and mastering the Zoom mute button. As companies consider how best to approach the new normal in 2021, one idea that is making waves across the globe is the four-day working week.
In our previous article, we looked at the pros and cons of the four-day week. If you’re considering a trial at your company, it’s important to be prepared beforehand to get the best out of the exercise. Here are our top five factors to consider.
1. Compile your criteria for success
If you’re adopting a company-wide shift in working patterns, you need to have a purpose in mind.
It’s important to clearly define your objectives and the measurements of success (KPIs).
There are a multitude of benefits that come with the four-day week. Some of these advantages go hand-in-hand, but different implementations can produce varying results. Do you want to maximize productivity and client satisfaction, as well as staff motivation and retention? Or do you want to minimize absenteeism, or equally, presenteeism, where staff make it into the office, or stay long hours, but don’t necessarily produce much meaningful work?
This is where defining KPIs comes in, as you’ll need to decide what constitutes a productive day within your individual team or organization. This will help you develop subsequent plans and processes.
2. Take stock of time-saving techniques
The reason the four-day week works is that less time is wasted throughout the week. So, in theory, the fifth day isn’t needed. But you need to support this model with practical policies that help you save this time.
For example, a 2019 study revealed that 62% of employees felt unproductive meetings wasted the most time in the workplace. So, both Microsoft Japan and New Zealand estate planning company Perpetual Guardian set a 30-minute limit on meetings during their trials of the four-day week.
Therefore, evaluating what the biggest time wasters in your company are is a good place to start.
3. Investigate work management systems
Time spent on admin tasks adds up, such as sharing documents and compiling to-do lists. To power your time-saving techniques, explore whether your current IT systems empower you to carry out these tasks efficiently or whether you need to invest in new software tools.
It’s likely that a good portion of the wasted time during the workday can be eliminated or reduced using work management software (WMS). A modern WMS can take care of many of the mundane tasks taking up employee time, freeing them up for an extra day off. The software includes many features for increasing efficiency, such as context-aware notifications, task prioritization, process standardization, improved collaboration, and automation of repetitive tasks.
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4. Evaluate employee input (and buy-in)
Our last article described how companies trialing the four-day week saw staff performance initially increase with the novelty of the new way of working, before decreasing slightly as it wore off. Naturally, organizations are concerned that this trend could continue in the long term, ending up with employees working at the same level as before.
To mitigate this, invest time beforehand, ensuring that each staff member has comprehensive plans for improving their productivity. Remember to consult both management and team members.
Management needs to encourage workers to contribute their own ideas and productivity measures and get them to agree, in writing if necessary, to meet their own targets to guarantee output. Meanwhile, teams need to determine how shifts will work between team members across the four days.
When engaged and empowered, employees can formulate brilliant ideas for process improvement.
Understand that teams can provide valuable insights into work processes and take these on board when planning the transition to the new week.
5. Look at the legalities
It’s important to minimize any legal risk. Naturally, conducting a trial will mitigate this, since it enables you to iron out potential issues in the policy before committing your company long-term.
If you’re looking to make the four-day week permanent, ensure that your policy is robust and that compliance and regulatory checks have been carried out.
The HR department should consider the big picture first – from a company-focused perspective, rather than a process-based perspective – before working out the finer details. Ultimately, you can’t implement practices that are illegal, and if your employment policies allow staff to work in a certain way, you need to stick to it. Therefore, ensure that all company stakeholders are satisfied that your four-day week initiative will hold up.
If there’s anything the pandemic has shown us, it’s that employers need to provide staff with FWA (Flexible Working Arrangements), by looking at results rather than time spent in the office. The four-day week is one option among many, including weekend work, annual-hours contracts, job sharing, flextime, temporary work, fixed-term contracts, and remote working.
So, first, decide whether the four-day week is the right option for your organization – then consider the above factors for a smoother transition.