You’ve heard it a million times before, “What’s good for employees is good for business.” Maybe that’s why companies across the country are making serious strides to help boost employee morale and foster mental health. Shorter workweeks have long been a part of this conversation and are now being implemented by small and large companies, including us here at Brightly.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 32% of employers in the United States offered a compressed four-day workweek in 2020.
With such a relatively low percentage, why did we make the leap into what is, admittedly, uncertain territory?
Ultimately, it came down to providing the best possible experience for our employees, our partners, our clients — and their customers.
We know that when workers have time to rest and recharge, they’re more efficient, collaborative, and creative. Numerous studies conducted over the years back this up, including one from Iceland, which ran from 2015 through 2019. The study observed 2,500 people who worked between 35-36-hour weeks with no reduction in salary.
Employees reported less burnout, reduced stress, and better health. All of this equates to happier, more productive employees, which, in turn, produce better business outcomes.
We also know it’s what many workers want.
In this recent survey, 98% of employee respondents favored a shortened workweek, with 97% believing it would improve their mental health and productivity.
For additional perspective, look no further than Gallup’s recent Employee Engagement Survey, which shows some alarming numbers regarding employee engagement:
- The percentage of actively disengaged employees is up in the U.S. (14% in 2020 to 15% through June 2021).
- 74% of employees are either actively looking for new employment or watching for openings.
- 64% of employees are not engaged in their work and workplace.
- 15% of employees report miserable work experiences.
Additionally, Gallup notes, “Four in 10 white-collar workers prefer to work from home, including more than half of computer and mathematical occupations. Other fields with a high preference for working from home include arts/design/entertainment/media, life/physical/social sciences, financial/insurance/real estate/consulting and legal occupations,” further proving that flexibility is no longer a “nice to have” but a requirement that employers must begin implementing if they want to retain and attract top talent.
But what does a four-day workweek look like in terms of flexibility?
The answer is different for every business, especially those that might need workers on the floor five to seven days out of the week. While some companies provide a full day off for the same compensation, others have asked employees to make up for the loss of time during the four days they’re “on.”
Some business owners may balk at paying their workers the same amount of money for less time on the job, but even the U.S. is considering legislation that would reduce the 40-hour workweek to 32 hours nationwide, in part to catch up with years of stagnant pay. Still, the right recipe for a shorter workweek should be customized based on the needs of the business, which may fluctuate due to rapidly shifting customer demand.
On the flip side, we know that customer experience (CX) is heavily shaped by the experience of our employees. And with CX being the core of everything we do, scaling down to a four-day workweek was a strategic move for our business. One that we’ve been fortunate to have many of our clients embrace and encourage.
The approach to a shorter workweek is different for every business. We put a great deal of thought and planning behind ours before introducing it to our Brightly employees and stakeholders. What works for some companies won’t fly for others. Industries that are still primarily brick-and-mortar — and must remain open a certain number of days per week — will need to take additional considerations into account and create a plan that aligns with both the business and employee needs.