How To Implement An Alternating Four-Day Workweek And Why
One good thing the pandemic showed us is that working from home has a long list of benefits for both employers and employees, but working remotely can make work-life balance challenging and a higher risk of burnout. A recent survey discovered that 69% of remote workers are experiencing burnout symptoms and 59% of remote workers are taking less time off than normal. And, another survey stated that burnout at work doubled from March 2020 to April 2020. And that was just in one month!
Understanding the serious mental health effects that come from burnout (like exhaustion, depression and anxiety, loss of energy, and lack of motivation) we wanted to try something new and hopefully help prevent any of these challenges before they started.
What Is An Alternating Four-Day Workweek?
With a basic four-day workweek, you still work 40 hours, but you work 10 hours per day for four days. The extra day off doesn't have to be a Monday or Friday so that the employee gets a three-day weekend—although your employees may prefer this schedule over others.
An alternating four-day workweek is the same idea, but employees get every other Friday off, which is an additional 26 days off per year.
Why We Decided To Try It
At Service Direct, we have always offered a flexible work schedule as a perk, and our team has consistently stated that having that flexibility is very important to their job satisfaction. We tend to subscribe to the idea that as long as you are getting your work done, and hitting your KPIs, we don’t really care when or where you do that work.
However, for teams like Sales and Support, where they must interact with customers every day, they are really tied to working during regular business hours, in the office, and without much flexibility.
After reading this article, our CEO decided to take it a step further and try offering an alternating four-day workweek and see if it resonated with our team. Our hypothesis was that implementing this new perk would increase employee job satisfaction, improve retention, and make our team feel more rested and untimely, more productive, and motivated.
Our team had to adapt to such a huge change when we transitioned to being completely remote for everyone’s safety, so we just felt like it was the right thing to do.
“We recognize that now more than ever, having time to focus on your physical and mental well-being is important.”
Brian Abernethy, CEO of Service Direct
Our Experience So Far
We have only been trialing this schedule for about 3 months now, but we’ve already seen improvements in our employees' overall satisfaction, which is a huge success in our book. Not only has our team felt more productive, but they’ve had more time to balance both work and life.
In our recent end of quarter feedback survey:
- 100% of employees said they would like us to continue offering the perk
- 93% of employees have said their productivity has improved, while the other 7% said their productivity has been the same.
- 85% of employees said they feel more rested and happier at work.
- 100% of employees said that having a flexible work schedule is important to their job satisfaction.
Top Tips For Implementing With Your Team
A shortened workweek may boost employee motivation and productivity, but it can cause resentment or disrupt customers just as easily, and it’s important to minimize those risks.
Tip #1: Try The Concept Before Fully Implementing
We definitely recommend trying it out as a pilot perk before committing to it for the long term. This trial period made it to where we could see if/how the results we were hoping would actually happen, if we would run into any business challenges or productivity issues, and get some feedback from the team along the way. For any business owner, it makes the idea of trying it out not as stressful as committing to it long-term.
When we announced that we would be offering an alternating four-day workweek, we made it clear to the team that it was on a trial basis. We wanted to make sure everyone really benefited from having this time, and that our level of productivity at the very least didn’t drop.
We started this new schedule on Friday, April 2nd, and our initial evaluation of the plan would continue through Friday, June, 2nd (about 14 weeks). We actually just ended up trialing it through to Monday, July 21st, give us a full quarter to evaluate.
Tip #2: Consider The Impact On Your Customers
In order for this plan to run as productively and smoothly as possible, it’s important to consider your clients’ needs and strategically schedule your teams to ensure there will always be someone available from every department. That way, your clients will always be able to get the help that they need and your employees will enjoy their time off by successfully alternating Fridays between team members and departments.
When we launched this trial, our CEO stated, "We'll stagger Fridays off so that we'll still have roughly half of the team working each Friday to make sure our clients and projects are taken care of and progressing. I will be working with team leads over the next week to schedule, in advance, everyone's Fridays off throughout the quarter (again making sure that our clients will be taken care of.)"
We then scheduled everyone’s Friday off in advance using Google Calendar to avoid any confusion and to give everyone complete visibility into who would and wouldn’t be in the office on any given Friday.
Tip #3: Team Leads Should Lead by Example
Something to keep in mind when trying a perk like this is to have all of the executives and team leads "lead by example" meaning, everyone needs to take that time off. Leading by example is essential not only because CEOs need time to recharge themselves, but also because failing to follow through with the process can send mixed messages to employees and could cause anxiety on whether or not they should take the time off. It has the potential to feel like a trick or a test of work ethic. They need to know there is no penalty for taking this time off, and everyone follows the new schedule. Making sure everyone is taking the time off they need and leading by example sets the tone for a successful, worry-free work schedule.
Tip #4: Make Any Special Conditions Very Clear
Another thing we felt was important for this work schedule to be successful was to ensure everyone was aware that there were no special conditions or restrictions to this process. No longer hours required the week of their Friday off, no restrictions, no strings attached. Or, if there are special conditions, make them very clear from the get-go so that there is zero confusion or uncertainty about what is allowed and what isn't allowed. The worst thing would be to try out this idea and then implement it in a poor way that ends up fostering more resentment than satisfaction.
Benefits Of A Four-Day Workweek
We reached out to the other businesses who have implemented a four-day workweek to get an idea of the benefits they’ve noticed:
#1- More Productive Work Days
Research shows that a four-day workweek increases productivity by between 25% to 50%. If the goal of a company is to be as successful as possible, it doesn’t hurt to have a team of employees who are feeling refreshed and productive while they’re on the job!
“We surveyed our team recently and 100% of them wanted to continue with the 4-Day Workweek. A longer weekend worked wonders for their mental health, as it reduced the stress caused by an unstable work-life balance. Consequently, this caused productivity to increase and overall lifted the spirits at the entire office. I honestly believe it's high time that the rest of the country follows suit and adopts a shorter workweek. The happier the employees, the more focused they can be at work.” Thanks to Sid, 71Three
“We've absolutely seen an increase in productivity: when we're burned out and working crazy hours we're not able to think clearly and make good decisions. By prioritizing working smarter, not harder, we're more effective.” Thanks to Amy, Kingdom of Ink
- "Employees now are more eager to finish their work early because they have limited time. They focus more and avoid personal matters during working hours because they have more time to spend with their families and friends." Thanks to Caroline, CocoSign
- “Our four-day workweek has enabled the staff to spend more time with their families, and it has been beneficial to everybody's mental health. People, in my opinion, become burned out after a standard workweek. Having an extra day off allows them to feel better and return to work ready to go further the following week.” Thanks to Charles, Stand With Mainstreet
- “Implementing a 4-day workweek reduced the stress levels in our staff by a lot. We have achieved a reduction in health insurance spending by around 15% during this period. Our employees are currently happier and more relaxed than ever.” Thanks to Alina, CocoDoc
#3 - Increases Employee Satisfaction
- “We implemented the 4-day workweek in the summer of 2019 to give the parents on our team more time with their kids. We only get 18 summers with our kids and they fly by. At the time, our team was small and everyone was a parent. Since then we have hired people that didn't have kids and they have used that time to volunteer in their communities, do something they enjoy, and spend time with friends and family. The team morale changed immediately when we implemented this policy. People were grateful and it definitely boosted morale. I definitely feel that not only has it boosted employee satisfaction but it has made it more appealing to join our team.” Thanks to Bethanie, Marley Nomani Inc.
- "My biggest takeaway from implementing a 4-day workweek, even in such a short time, is that the setup actually makes everyone feel happier, including myself, because there is at least one additional day given to pursue personal endeavors. It also gave us all some space to breathe and plan on how to mitigate the effects of the global pandemic we are in. In fact, the freedom this has afforded us also made us more sympathetic toward each other, and dare I say tightened the bond we have." Thanks to Willie, Product Analyst
If you’re trying to grow your company, then hiring and keeping valuable people on your team is critical. Offering an alternating 4-day workweek is a great way to show applicants you care about your employee’s health and wellness, as well as offer real flexibility when it comes to working schedules.
Here are some statistics:
- 96% of employees believe empathy is a crucial part of advancing employee retention, giving them more time to themselves is a great start to show them how much you value them as people.
- 80% of employees said they would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options.
- 74% of workers said the work-life balance is a top factor when evaluating a job.
If you’re still not convinced, there’s no harm in trying it out for a couple of weeks and conducting an employee survey to see how everyone feels about it. Regardless, it’s sure shown benefits in businesses around the world in company growth, productivity, and mental health. So trying something new might be the best thing to do for your overall company success!