Advice Column, Tween & Teen

Are Shorter Working Weeks Feasible?

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Autonomy Research Ltd recently released findings of a study they performed across the PCS Scotland trade union and FDA trade union members on the impact and feasibility of shorter working weeks.

Findings indicate that a wide range of business areas can afford to move to shorter working weeks. After collecting data from more than 2000 Scottish Government employees, Autonomy found that 87% of employees support the idea of shorter working weeks. 84% of respondents said that they currently have sufficient flexibility within their careers to adapt their current processes for a four-day working week.

The report also investigated the benefits of a shorter working week. All indications pointed out that four-day working weeks would lead to a happier and healthier workforce.  Adzuna did a little digging and found that many organisations are giving the idea a go. Here’s what you need to know about the rise of the 4-day workweek!

Are Shorter Working Weeks on the Horizon?

Although the idea of a four-day workweek might sound like a pipeline dream, automation could make it possible for employees to get the same amount of work done in less time and still meet their goals.

We already know that AI and machine learning will disrupt how and when we work, and thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the shift to new technological adaptations has been sped up significantly. Many companies, like Perpetual Guardian (based in New Zealand), are already realising and reaping the benefits of shorter working weeks. They say that a four-day workweek increases employee satisfaction and company commitment while also reducing stress levels. And contrary to what the sceptics predicted, shortening the workweek doesn’t harm productivity or company performance.

Understanding the 4-Day Work Week

A four-day workweek doesn’t mean compressing a work schedule. It means that working hours are reduced. Instead of working 35-40 hours over five days per week, employees work around 28 hours across four days and get three days of downtime.

Reducing the working week down to merely 28 hours might sound a little radical, but not if you consider how much the typical work week has changed over the last century. Back in 1890, full-time manufacturing plant employees were working an average of 100 hours per week. Luckily, by the mid-20th century, that was down to about 40 hours per week.  And that, as they say, is how the weekend was won.

With these stats in mind, reducing our work week down to 28 hours doesn’t seem so radical any longer.

What Are the Benefits of Shorter Working Weeks?

The idea of a 4-day workweek is still a new concept that’ll become more widely accepted as tech advanced. But many companies are giving it a run for its money, and they see promising results. Here are some of the potential benefits we can expect:

Increased Job Satisfaction

It almost goes without saying that overworked employees are less productive than their counterparts that work regular hours. New Zealand’s Perpetual Guardian did a trial of the 4-day work week and found that their employees maintained productivity levels. Not only that, but their employees were more satisfied in their jobs. Work-life balance also increased, and so did company loyalty.

Higher Employee Engagement Rates

Employees that have a better work-life balance are bound to be happier and more committed to their jobs. This might lead to reduced sick leave taken by employees, which enhances productivity levels. Sweden conducted a trial study into shorter working weeks between 2015 and 2017, and the results were positive. Study participants reported better general health and mental wellbeing along with greater engagement.

A Reduced Carbon Footprint

Reducing the workweek from five to four days could be beneficial for the environment too. Shortening the workweek leads to less commuting and smaller office spaces. A Utah-based study on government employees indicated a significant ecological impact with implementing a shorter workweek. The project saved more than $1.8m in energy costs over the first ten months and reduced about 6,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions just by closing the office building on Fridays. The state estimated that it could save 12,000 metric tons of CO2 if the impact of commuting were added to the equation. That’s the equivalent of 2,300 cars being removed from the roads for a year!

Are There Any Drawbacks?

The 4-day workweek does have its benefits, but it also poses a handful of disadvantages. Shorter working weeks can only work if the proper support, technology, and workplace culture are already in place. Here’s what else could go wrong:

Customer Satisfaction

Although the study in Utah showed great environmental, employee, and employer benefits, it took a big knock in the customer satisfaction department. Customers were unhappy about not having access to government services on Fridays. To help solve this issue, companies can use chatbots and AI-powered websites that offer support even when the human workforce isn’t around.

Compressing Instead of Shortening the Work Week

Many employers think that a 4-day work week would simply mean compressing the hours of a 5-day work week into four days. But employees that are still expected to work 35-40 hours over four days will show decreased productivity rates. It might also negatively impact employee engagement and overall job satisfaction. Employers that want to embrace the 4-day workweek must be able to accept 7 hours of work per day from their employees.

In Conclusion

Our world might be more digitized than ever before as we embrace the global economy. But we’re not quite ready to adopt the 4-day work week. In the future, this might be one of the best ways to protect and promote the wellbeing of human employees in a workforce dominated by AI, but a lot needs to happen before we reach that point!

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