As part of the top management in our company, we dedicate some parts of our meeting to deciding how to improve our work setting and environment. One of the discussions we have had was whether to shift into a three-day work week or not. To help us with the decision, our CEO spearheaded a small seminar for us which tackled the ins and outs of this setup. With that, let me share to you some of the things that I have learned.
So, is a three-day work week an option for your company? Yes, it should be. Every business should not dismiss the idea of shifting to this setup. The main advantage of implementing this concept is that it is proven to increase employee productivity despite working fewer hours because employees are happier and more relaxed, hence resulting in more output.
Even if this idea might seem a little bit revolutionary, more and more employers are now seeing flexibility as a business opportunity instead of being a company burden. Let me tell you why.
One of the most influential pushers of the three-day workweek is billionaire Richard Branson. According to him, what works in the workplaces before will not be as effective when applied in today’s setting. The reason for that is the rise of the digital age. Since technology can boost employee productivity, people have the luxury to work fewer hours and still be equally—if not more—prolific.
Branson often emphasizes the importance of a flexible work setting. He believes that recharging and relaxing are the most crucial ingredients in increasing workplace productivity and establishing a successful venture.
Experts believe that those jobs which require working every single day until late enough is not necessary. It just means that the individual has poor time management or the company has provided a lousy job design. With that in mind, they are now calling for a cultural shift through the implementation of a three-day work week.
This concept might be a bit tricky to implement; hence, the company should make sure to consider every aspect in their business before making the jump.
With the concept of a three-day work week clouding the discussions in the workplace, many types of research had been conducted to study its effectivity.
One of the studies by researchers from the University of Melbourne Faculty of Business Economics tested a group of workers through a series of tests. They were asked to link letters, recite a set of numbers, and read words during a timed situation. Results showed that those who had a 40 and 55 hours of work per week scored significantly lower than those who spent 25 hours in their jobs a week.
Their analysis states that work can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can stimulate activity, but it can also damage its other cognitive functions brought about by the stress and fatigue from the long working hours.
In another study by a government agency, a survey showed that more than half of the respondents are still open to working until the age of 70 given that they have flexible or shorter work hours. They believe that this kind of setup will allow them to live a happier life at a younger age instead of experiencing it after they retire.
One researcher also brought up the concept of the Parkinson’s Law. According to this model, the time to accomplish a work expands to fill the time assigned for its completion. It means that if your boss gives you ten hours to do a five-hour job, you will tend to increase the task’s complexity to fill up the entire given to you.
Lastly, a recent study in Britain found out that less than 50 percent of British workers spend at least six hours on any kind of productive work on an average day. Interestingly, a third of this number admitted that they waste a maximum of three hours a day due to the inability to concentrate from the workplace distractions.
Because of these positive results from several pieces of research, the idea of redesigning the work week is starting to gain traction among business executives.
A three-day work week can be a powerful tool if used correctly. Hence, it is crucial to keep these things in mind when deciding whether to transition into a three-day work week.
Consult your employees and ask their opinion. Rather than trying to come up with your decision alone, make sure to give your employees a safe space to discuss their personal situations with you. Do they want shorter hours but the same number of work days? Are they open to a work-from-home setting? Will cutting their workdays improve their productivity? These are only some of the relevant questions you should throw to your employees.
Consider the nature of your business. Can you afford to eliminate one workday or two to give way for the betterment of your employees? Is the nature of your employee’s work more reliant on physical meetings or individual tasking? The answers to these questions will somehow determine whether your company is ready for this transition.
Technology is a crucial tool when deciding whether to push through with a three-day work week. If you think that you have the proper technology to achieve more work in fewer hours, then proceed with the transition. However, if you think that you need more manual labor in accomplishing the jobs, retaining your current work setting may be the best.
Study the daily routine of your workforce. According to Branson, telecommuting is one way to boost productivity. Those who face long commutes to go to work have less drive to finish a task because of the stress and fatigue that accompany it. Without the process of commuting, employees can start their days earlier and accomplish more work. Hence, if you think that most of your workers experience this kind of stress in commuting, it is better to implement the three-day work system.
Employers should also study the demographics of its employees. Most married couples, especially those with a child, prefer to get things done at a faster time (without sacrificing quality) to make way for their own family time. If there is a significant amount of people who have this status, the three-day work week setup might be helpful for them.
If your company is opting for a three-day work week, you should also take into account how you will implement it. Here are some suggestions should you go ahead with this kind of work style.
- If your company cannot afford any break in operations, the setup can be in the form of a three-day work week where employees should be available in the office in those three days given that another day will be for working at home. This way, the fourth day (and even the fifth) will be a combination of a rest day and a flexible workday.
- Instead of pricing per hour, per day, or per month, try considering pricing the salary for value. It might be an absurd idea at first; however, it is feasible. To be able to know the basics and step-by-step process in implementing this, you can try reading a book by Harry Macdivitt entitled Value-Based Pricing. This approach is best for companies which are output-based.
- This one might be a long shot, but your company can also consider hiring two people per position. These employees can take shifts in their job wherein person A will work three days and person B will take over on the other three days. This setup allows the company to operate for a total of 6 days. However, this is best only for positions which are skills-based such as factory worker and product sellers. You should not consider adopting this for individuals who are in the managerial position.
- Invest in technologies which will speed up the accomplishment of your worker’s task. This way, it will be easier to implement this kind of setup given that your company will avoid lag time in your operations.
There are many strategies on how employers can play with the concept of a three-day work week. However, it is important to study every scenario thoroughly to be able to find the best fit for your company.
What can be an alternative for a three-day work week?
Due to the nature of their business, most companies opt for lesser work hours instead of cutting back the days of work.
What is an example of a company who have shifted to this workstyle?
One of the companies who has tried this concept is the Virgin Group, a venture capital investment firm. Its CEO urges other employers to give this style a shot since he has seen the positive effects the setup has brought firsthand. Currently, the net worth of the Virgin Group stands at around $5 billion.
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