My wife will tell you that I can be an old fashioned guy, a bit out of step with current trends. In particular, she’ll tell you about how bullish I have been about casual dress at work. I just don’t believe in it. I’ve always thought that one should dress professionally; if you’re dressed for the beach then you’re in the wrong mindset. I’ve also never been a proponent of having ping pong tables and video games at the office. As a business owner I’m not paying you to play games.
So it might have surprised her when, late in 2021, we decided to move our employees to a 4 day work week, following a burgeoning and, to my way of thinking, important current trend.
Personally I’ve never understood the mentality that suggests working harder is working smarter. I could never wrap my head around the idea that working 60/70 hours a week (or more) was something to celebrate and be proud of, let alone be rewarded for. I always tried to manage in the opposite direction, insisting that my staff take their holidays and having employees’ accrued days off as an agenda item in my meetings with department heads. “Matt has a ton of vacation time left”, I’d say to his manager as we approached the fall. “Why is that?”
I’m really glad to see this idea trending upward. Scotland, Spain and Iceland have all recently experimented with 4 day work weeks, with no impact to employee salaries or benefits. Big name organizations like Bolt and Dockwa are as well, citing improvements in productivity and employee wellness. But it’s not just the hip tech firms. In a country well known for their 90 hour work weeks, Panasonic, the legacy Japanese manufacturer is offering a reduced work week as has Microsoft Japan. In the US, another hard-working nation, Democratic Senator Mark Takano has introduced legislation supporting a 32 hour work week, citing lower child care expenses, reduced health care costs, operating costs and environmental impact as benefits to both companies and employees.
Companies implementing this policy report employees returning to work more refreshed and relaxed, no reductions in corporate culture, reduced absenteeism, increases in staff retention (SO critical right now), increases in productivity and the general feeling that work/life balance (yes, that old myth) was actually now attainable. Some companies are experimenting with variations on the theme; flexible work hours, half day options and so on.
There were over 200,000 vacant shifts posted through ShiftLink in 2021. 200,000! With so much pressure on staffing, increases in anxiety and depression, worker burnout and reduced wellness it’s time for us to stop throwing money at people and start giving them what they really need and want…..time.
The 5 day work week was established in the 1930’s. As we approach the 100th anniversary of that industrial breakthrough it’s time to take the next step, for everyone’s sake. If an outdated, uncool, curmudgeon like me can do it, maybe you can too.