Has your organization considered adopting a shorter workweek? With all of the changes we’re facing amid the pandemic, there are a lot of nontraditional suggestions being considered by large and small organizations alike. A shorter workweek is one option on the table for some companies.
Here are some of the reasons employers may be considering moving to a shorter workweek:
- It could help employers keep more employees on staff during times of economic slowdown by allowing workers to stay on board with a lower salary and shorter hours. Thus, fewer layoffs are needed, and there’s more flexibility to ramp up again quickly in the future without having to hire more people.
- It may not actually reduce productivity as much as employers fear, as employees often waste less time if they have less time to get work done. In the current environment, in which an 8-hour workday and 5-day workweek is the norm, it’s also common for a lot of time to be wasted. Experiments in other countries have shown that productivity doesn’t drop off like expected with shorter hours because people spend a greater percentage of their time working efficiently.
- It could mean employers could hire (or rehire) more employees sooner, which can help increase their flexibility during times of uncertain growth or economic fluctuations.
- It could boost employee happiness and satisfaction levels, leading to reduced turnover.
- It would give employees more time to get personal appointments and errands done on days off, thus reducing those tasks’ impact on the workday.
- It could significantly reduce employee stress levels and burnout if managed well, as it would provide employees with more time to recharge.
- It could improve retention, as employees may not want to shift back to a 5-day workweek somewhere else once they’re accustomed to the new norm.
- It could make recruiting easier, too.
If this is something your organization would consider, know that it may take some significant cultural shifts to accomplish it. First, leadership needs to be on board with the idea—and not just by paying it lip service.
If upper management still expects employees to be available 5 or more days per week, that will shatter any illusions of having a shorter workweek in the actual working environment, regardless of what the policy may say. The cultural shift has to start from the top, and there should be no penalties (formal or informal) for not working longer hours.
Note that even some employees may be opposed to the idea, and this could be for many reasons. Some employees may fear working less will make them seem less committed or less likely to be promoted and thus may resist the idea.
Some employees may even resent the loss of social interaction on that extra day or any loss in income if the employer decides to reduce pay along with the reduced hours (though this is optional; there are arguments on both sides of this topic).
Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.