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Hey, everybody. This is Gene Marks. And thanks again for joining me for this week’s edition of The Hartford’s Small Biz Ahead podcast. And you know what? Let’s just cut to the chase. We want to talk…or I wanna talk this week about the four day work week. What is it? Is it something that you should be considering? Is this something that’s just a fad or a phase, or is this something that really is a viable way to attract employees and retain employees? So a couple of thoughts I just wanna share with you, first of all, maybe you’re like a lot of my clients. I mean, when I bring up the idea of a four day work week to my clients, particularly those that are like me over the age of 50, I often get the eye roll that’s because most of my small business owners, I know they think it’s just a way for employees to work only 80% of the time for a hundred percent of the pay.
I admit that in some cases that may be true, but is this really a bad thing? I mean, is that really what’s going on? I talked to Joe O’Connor who works for a nonprofit organization called the 4 Day Week Global. There are a nonprofit that helps companies implement four day work weeks and he says, “Hey listen, it’s not about 80% of the work.” He said, this concept is about shifting from time as a measure, or as a surrogate for productivity, towards a focus on the work that’s actually getting done and what’s being delivered for your business. And what he says does make a lot of sense. I mean, think about it. We’re all used to having a 40 hour work week, but if you’ve got employees that you’re tasking to do certain things and they get their certain things done and you’re happy with that or their supervisor happy with that.
And if they get it done in 20 hours, rather than 40 hours, who cares as long as they’re getting their job done. And I think that’s what the four day work week concept is all about. People translated into just working four days, but it’s not four days. It’s flexibility. You know? I mean, like Joe O’Connor says, this is not something that’s about paying people for doing less work. It’s just actually about shifting towards a more smarter way of working. Now listen, this is happening all over the world. Consumer electronics giant Panasonic recently said that it will be offering a four day work week as an option to its employees. Microsoft conducted a similar test in Japan and they claimed a 40% increase in productivity as a result. The crowdfunding platform Kickstarter their testing that concept this year for a four day work week. 30 companies in the United Kingdom are participating in a pilot program to also demonstrate whether it’s effective or not.
In Iceland, that country conducted a test of the model using 2,500 employees, by the way, that’s 1% of that country’s working population, the equivalent of about 16 million U.S. workers. They tested this from 2015 to 2019, said it was an overwhelming success. All of this is causing governments in New Zealand, Spain and Singapore to do their own tests. There’s even been a big push. Mark Takano is one of the congressmen in California. He’s been leading a push for legislation in Congress to require, employers in the U.S. to have a four day work week. So listen, there is a movement towards this area and advocates like Joe O’Connor and many studies say that a four day work week can significantly improve productivity. However, opponents worry about the cost, right? And the monitoring of this and the supervision and the effectiveness of this. But regardless of how you feel, there’s no arguing that the benefit has created a buzz and as it grows in popularity, small business owners are gonna need to determine whether or not such a program has right for them.
And listen, the program might not be right for your business. I get that. I mean, some businesses, particularly some service and manufacturing organizations, many of them are my clients. They need to ensure that their people are available regardless of the day or time. Some jobs require employees to be on the production floor continuously and other businesses require a more continuous presence in order to maintain their output and respond to customer requests. One of my clients, a woman who runs a digital marketing firm, she says, “Our clients don’t shut down at five o’clock. I mean, they’re small businesses who are in and out all about the day and that presents challenges.” So, what do you do when it comes to these types of challenges and what do you do when people are asking you about a four day work week?
Well, you can do what she does, the digital marketer, you offer flexibility. And I think that’s what the four day work week is all about. It’s just about flexibility. You can call it the four day work week. You can call it flexible scheduling. You can call it remote working, whatever you wanna call it. It’s a matter of giving your employees the choice to get their job done. And as long as they do it again, why do you care how long that they’re working for? In my client, the digital marketer, in her case, she gives her workers a great amount of flexibility. They work from home, they work in the office as long as they’re responding to their clients when they are, she’s good with all of this. The other thing you also wanna consider is maybe a shift in your times.
I have many clients that are in certain industries like healthcare, for example, where they offer…they still have their employees work 40 hours a week, but they get it done in four days, like four days with four, 10 hour shifts. I mean, think about if you have any friends that are nurses, for example, that’s very common in that industry and they’re still put in there 40 hours, but they’re doing it in four days, then they get three days off. And that might be a better choice for your company as well. All of this requires a certain collective responsibility across the workforce. This isn’t something where you just offer it and people take advantage and slack off, they are gonna be responsible for getting their work done. And you should not be ashamed of yourself or have any limitations in telling your workers, “Hey, this is what I expect for you.” But in some cases it can be really, really successful.
I talked to another client of mine in Philadelphia. She runs a really successful and an awesome retail store called Metropolitan Bakery. There’s a few locations of it in Philly. It’s really good. She’s has a generally younger workforce. And she’s found that a four day work week has been the right balance for her, particularly in a retail environment because most of her workers are hourly. So she can give out shifts in four days. And it’s also helped to manage vacations too. And that’s another consideration. If you’re offering a four day work week, it’s an opportunity for you as well to maybe take another look at your vacations. Maybe you offer less paid time off or flexible or sick time, for example, as long as you’re in accordance with regulations, because the people only working four days, they get a commensurate level of PTO along with that.
And that’s something that she does. She has found that again, her workers tend to be younger, but they want more flexibility in their schedules and they want more time off to help balance the stress of their jobs. In fact, there was a recent study from a recruiting firm Robert Half that supported this. They found that flexible scheduling has helped, people recruit better employees, increase productivity and increase the ability of them to retain employees in their business. So look, have I convinced you that a four day work week may potentially be a great benefit to offer your employees? Hopefully so but listen, it’s not a benefit that most of us small business owners can really enjoy, right? We didn’t sign up for this. We don’t work four day work weeks, but let’s also agree that the workforce is changing.
And with Millennials and Gen Zs, this demographic of people who they make up 50% of the workforce, they want more flexible time. They wanna have more life work balance in their lives and good for them. If your business is able to support something like that, offer a four day work week, offer flexible time, just be more flexible, that will help you significantly to recruit new employees and also retain your existing ones. Those are my thoughts on a four day work week. I hope they help. If you wanna leave comments on this episode, or if you want some advice or tips for running your business, please visit us at SmallBizAhead.com. My name is Gene Marks. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of our Small Biz Ahead podcast. I’ll be back next week. With some thoughts on some other topic that will impact your business and mine take care.
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Its not about working less hours, its about getting 2.5 to three days off each week to decompress and take care of you personal to-do’s and priorities. Our company is considering 4- 9hr (M-Th) and 1-4hr hour shift on Fridays.
I worked this schedule with a major manufacturer for several years and it was a great change of pace that made you feel like you had a 3 day weekend every week. It made a huge difference in my energy level and ability to accomplish much at both work and home.
Thank you for sharing your experiences and reading SBA!
I own a child care center. We have applied a 4 10’s schedule for the last 15 years. It works very well for everyone. They can trade coworkers if they have an illness come up. My question is whether business will start changing business hours. Some other centers in our area have changed their open days to Monday through Thursday.
Thanks for the comment, April!
I completely agree with the 4 day work week. As a business owner, the flexible work hours are a blessing. My employees basically make up their own hours. School or other life priorities get taken care of as well as the work. Everybody is happy!
That’s great, Laurie! Flexible work hours can definitely be helpful.
Did we forget the 1960s promise that technology would give us the “four, even three day work week”? Plenty of leisure time! Business saw technology made for higher production and there went the leisure time. What technology really does is prop up an unproductive workforce, until those basic jobs can be done by the technology without human input. So ask yourself, 4 day work week? Really? For the motivated, it’s time to start a business!