The pandemic triggered a discussion about shorter work weeks. Numerous industrialized nations have already experimented with the 4-day week and many of those view a shorter week as here to stay. In the U.S., the concept is still somewhat novel. Obviously, not every industry is suited to shorter weeks. But any business which does not absolutely require 5 days in a row from an employee should put this topic on the discussion list: if the owner isn't thinking about more flexible working, its employees certainly are, and they may leave for other roles offering more flexibility.
Why is it Important?
Research shows that overwhelming majorities of employees are open to the idea of longer hours over fewer days. Other research indicates that employees are more motivated and the risk of burnout is lowered by working fewer days, even if the overall total number of hours stays the same. Not all employees will want to work longer hours over fewer fixed days, but may still want the flexibility of working when they want (within reason).
Most Common Approaches
The most obvious question for an employer is if wages will be cut in proportion to reduced hours, or if the employee will be paid the same and work the same total hours spread over fewer days. (Employers should seek legal advice before changing hours of work so that they understand the implications for overtime pay and discrimination laws.)
Ways to Appease Concerns
Having good managers, implementing measures to ensure employee engagement, setting clear targets, and using clear measures for evaluating performance are all ways that businesses can offset their worries about shorter work weeks or flexible hours. Frankly, businesses should strive to have these in place in any case.
Even if a 4-day-week is not what you want for your business, the writing is on the wall: an inflexible 5-day-in-the-office policy will either deter good candidates from applying or cause good employees to start looking elsewhere. Now is a good time to be honest about if your working schedules are actually productive or in place purely as a matter of routine.