What if I told you that you could work four days a week instead of five and still be paid the same. Sounds tempting, right? Well, it depends.
I received requests to comment on the subject, following the completion of trials in Iceland, where hundreds of civil servants were switched to four-day weeks. The results are what you would expect: participants reported greater work-life balance, and productivity was maintained.
So, what do I think? On the one hand, I am in favor of any policy that helps employees find a better balance between work and life. The benefits are far-reaching. Organizations can benefit tremendously from having healthy employees who can tend to responsibilities.
On the other hand, it all depends on how organizations implement it. The idea of a four-day workweek is far from new. Companies were already experimenting with it in the 1970s, with very mixed results. The main issue? Benefits were short-lived.
Switching to a four-day workweek is unlikely to yield any long-term advantage if the total number of hours worked stays the same. In the beginning, people might get excited. As months go by and fatigue sets in, employees are likely to go back to baseline or lower. That’s what comes out of the research done in the 1970s and 1980s.
Is a four-day workweek a bad idea? Absolutely not. The idea of working from Monday to Friday, from 9AM to 5PM, is completely arbitrary. The world changes, we can change too.
Over the past 50 years, employee productivity has grown at a much faster pace than salaries, and work hours stayed the same. It would be fair to have some of these productivity gains be allocated to reducing work hours.
Just like everything else in life, it all boils down to negotiation. If employers and employees sit at a negotiation table and find ways to maintain productivity while structuring the work week differently, then I’m all for it.
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