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A Look at the 4-Day Workweek: Are Alternative Work Schedules the Future?

April 25, 2022

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There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about companies ditching the standard 40-hour workweek.

On April 1, 38 U.S. and Canadian businesses embarked on a six-month pilot program to try a four-day, 32-hour workweek. The nonprofit 4 Day Week Global, which funds research into the pros and cons of the alternative work schedule (AWS), is leading the program, having done similar trials in New Zealand and the UK.

Companies like Buffer and Bolt have made the four-day workweek permanent after independent trials with their teams. And Basecamp has had a 32-hour schedule every summer since 2008.

Other businesses have their own creative spins with AWS. The Martin Agency added their own special company-wide holidays to give their employees a three-day weekend at least once a month. At Trainual, the business operates “flex-first” — meaning, employees are allowed to work when, where, and how they work best without a strict schedule.

Why are companies changing up their work schedules?

The Kinks said it best: “Give the people what they want.” And what they want is flexibility.

In a survey from Future Forum, 95% of employees stated they wanted flexible hours — higher than the 78% who wanted location flexibility. People want work-life balance, and work schedule flexibility can play a major role in that.

Right now, it’s hard to recruit and retain employees. Which is why companies are changing their policies and making employee happiness their top priority. And for good reason: 72% of employees stated that they’re likely to seek new opportunities if they’re not happy with their level of flexibility.

So, with that in mind, businesses are adopting new schedules to keep their employees happy while trying to maintain the same level of productivity and growth.

Types of AWS

There are multiple types of alternate work schedules, including:

  • Four-day workweek (32 hours): Employees work the standard eight-hour workday for four days out of the week, versus the traditional five.
  • Compressed workweek: Companies compress the standard 40-hour workweek into four days, meaning that employees work 10-hour days to have three-day weekends. Last June, Toshiba started using this schedule as part of a wider plan to reduce COVID exposure through less commuting.
  • Flex-time/common window schedule: Businesses, including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, allow employees to choose their start and end times, but they must be available for a “common window” of hours for meetings, customer service coverage, and a variety of other collaborative needs.

Other types of AWS include the monthly company-wide holidays (mentioned above) or flexible public holidays (Spotify allows their employees to choose their own holidays instead of sticking to the typical corporate days off). Some companies are also using an unlimited PTO policy to give employees the flexibility to choose their own days off.

Should SMBs start using AWS?

The pros of alternative work schedules are many, but there are some cons that could prevent small businesses from taking advantage of these unique schedules.

The advantages? Alternative schedules can entice potential job candidates and help you retain the employees you already have. After starting their four-day workweek experiment, Buffer reported that 91% of their employees felt happier and more productive. Employees with flexible schedules also reported feeling healthier and more satisfied with their jobs.

But there are some downsides. While some employees have reported higher productivity with compressed workweeks, doing the same amount of work in a shorter period of time is ultimately going to increase the pressure and stress on your team. High productivity can be hard to maintain, even if you have a longer recharge period.

Plus, alternative work schedules make scheduling, well, harder. You don’t want your output or customers to suffer in the shift, but that may mean struggling to accommodate your employees while scheduling equal work coverage every day of the week.

The cons can be especially challenging for small businesses, who typically deal with smaller staffs, fewer resources, and a steeper uphill battle when it comes to scaling. In the end, the choice is up to each individual SMB owner: if you can make AWS work with your business while reaching your goals, go for it. Otherwise, you may need to stick with your regularly scheduled programming.

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Article

A Look at the 4-Day Workweek: Are Alternative Work Schedules the Future?

April 25, 2022

Jump to a section
Share it!
Sign up for our newsletter
You're all signed up! Look out for the next edition of The Manual Weekly coming Wednesday am!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about companies ditching the standard 40-hour workweek.

On April 1, 38 U.S. and Canadian businesses embarked on a six-month pilot program to try a four-day, 32-hour workweek. The nonprofit 4 Day Week Global, which funds research into the pros and cons of the alternative work schedule (AWS), is leading the program, having done similar trials in New Zealand and the UK.

Companies like Buffer and Bolt have made the four-day workweek permanent after independent trials with their teams. And Basecamp has had a 32-hour schedule every summer since 2008.

Other businesses have their own creative spins with AWS. The Martin Agency added their own special company-wide holidays to give their employees a three-day weekend at least once a month. At Trainual, the business operates “flex-first” — meaning, employees are allowed to work when, where, and how they work best without a strict schedule.

Why are companies changing up their work schedules?

The Kinks said it best: “Give the people what they want.” And what they want is flexibility.

In a survey from Future Forum, 95% of employees stated they wanted flexible hours — higher than the 78% who wanted location flexibility. People want work-life balance, and work schedule flexibility can play a major role in that.

Right now, it’s hard to recruit and retain employees. Which is why companies are changing their policies and making employee happiness their top priority. And for good reason: 72% of employees stated that they’re likely to seek new opportunities if they’re not happy with their level of flexibility.

So, with that in mind, businesses are adopting new schedules to keep their employees happy while trying to maintain the same level of productivity and growth.

Types of AWS

There are multiple types of alternate work schedules, including:

  • Four-day workweek (32 hours): Employees work the standard eight-hour workday for four days out of the week, versus the traditional five.
  • Compressed workweek: Companies compress the standard 40-hour workweek into four days, meaning that employees work 10-hour days to have three-day weekends. Last June, Toshiba started using this schedule as part of a wider plan to reduce COVID exposure through less commuting.
  • Flex-time/common window schedule: Businesses, including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, allow employees to choose their start and end times, but they must be available for a “common window” of hours for meetings, customer service coverage, and a variety of other collaborative needs.

Other types of AWS include the monthly company-wide holidays (mentioned above) or flexible public holidays (Spotify allows their employees to choose their own holidays instead of sticking to the typical corporate days off). Some companies are also using an unlimited PTO policy to give employees the flexibility to choose their own days off.

Should SMBs start using AWS?

The pros of alternative work schedules are many, but there are some cons that could prevent small businesses from taking advantage of these unique schedules.

The advantages? Alternative schedules can entice potential job candidates and help you retain the employees you already have. After starting their four-day workweek experiment, Buffer reported that 91% of their employees felt happier and more productive. Employees with flexible schedules also reported feeling healthier and more satisfied with their jobs.

But there are some downsides. While some employees have reported higher productivity with compressed workweeks, doing the same amount of work in a shorter period of time is ultimately going to increase the pressure and stress on your team. High productivity can be hard to maintain, even if you have a longer recharge period.

Plus, alternative work schedules make scheduling, well, harder. You don’t want your output or customers to suffer in the shift, but that may mean struggling to accommodate your employees while scheduling equal work coverage every day of the week.

The cons can be especially challenging for small businesses, who typically deal with smaller staffs, fewer resources, and a steeper uphill battle when it comes to scaling. In the end, the choice is up to each individual SMB owner: if you can make AWS work with your business while reaching your goals, go for it. Otherwise, you may need to stick with your regularly scheduled programming.

Article

A Look at the 4-Day Workweek: Are Alternative Work Schedules the Future?

April 25, 2022

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