Four business days per week – Management Essay
Recently we heard more and more about the introduction of the four-day work week, especially with regard to the increased automation of work. Studies and practical experiences show that shortening working hours increases employee satisfaction, which can lead to increased productivity. However, this may not always be the case. Workers accustomed to the eight-hour model may have difficulty adjusting to the new pace of work, which can lead to additional costs and time slippage for companies. Problems can also arise regarding expectations of clients or partners and suppliers.
Currently, finding a work / life balance is at the forefront of most employees’ concerns. For this reason, flexible working hours or the possibility of part-time work are very much appreciated. At the same time, the share of automated businesses is increasing, especially in industrial firms. It is not surprising that in such a situation, especially in Europe, the concept of a four-day work week resonates very strongly.
The same amount of work done in less time? Maybe
In recent years, a number of companies around the world have experimented with the abbreviated Business Week. For example, a major debate has erupted over the results of a similar experiment presented by New Zealand asset management firm Perpetual Guardian. It reduced the workweek of all its employees to 32 hours from the usual 40 and recorded a 5 percent increase in employee satisfaction and a 7 percent decrease in stress, but above all there was no decrease in performance. A quarter of employees also reported achieving a more successful work-life balance, and company management again noticed that employees were more creative, improved attendance, did not leave work prematurely, and did not extend their breaks in any way. “Several previous studies have shown that employee productivity increases with greater satisfaction. The New Zealand experience only confirmed this,” Comments on an attempt to introduce a four-week work week, Jerry Gemilka, Director of Intensive Care Unit for Companies that provides activation and interim management for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Other mentioned benefits of a four-week work week include some environmental and economic aspects: for example, reducing the individual carbon footprint as people lose one day of commuting to work or saving operating costs for the business owner, especially energy. In addition to the many positives, however, there are also some negatives that any private business owner considering reducing working hours, or even a country intending to make general changes in working hours, should carefully consider them. “The starting point for these considerations should be, among other things, a questionnaire among employees. It is certain that the mentality of employees is not the same everywhere and it cannot be excluded that your mind is completely satisfied with 40 hours of work per week.” Jerry Gemilka notes.
The risks cannot be neglected
Certainly, the four-day work week cannot be easily implemented in every industry area or for all job positions. For example, companies that rely on meticulous customer support cannot reduce the time their employees in this area are available to customers. Likewise, logistics companies will be required. “Problems can arise even if the company decides to offer a short work week for some jobs only. Other employees who have traditional work hours do not have to put up with them well and the workplace atmosphere will suffer,” Jerry Gemilka points out. It is also necessary to bear in mind that eight-hour work hours are such a common habit for many employees that they may have major problems adjusting the pace or style of work with the new setup. In such a situation there is a risk that the workers will simply not be able to continue with their tasks and their productivity will decline. In order to maintain it, it will be necessary for the employees to work overtime often, which will greatly affect the costs of the company. Additionally, some work tasks cannot be speeded up easily and smaller weekly time allowances can drastically discourage delivery dates. Likewise, the introduction of four-day working hours can make it difficult for the company to work with partners and suppliers who will operate in a traditional five-day workweek, both domestically and abroad. It is imperative to look at shortening the workweek globally and analyze the complications it can represent. This new arrangement is precisely for a particular company. It is very likely that developments in the industry and the labor market will reduce working hours, so it is necessary to think about potential risks and deal with appropriate solutions that will reduce or eliminate them in the future. Jiří Jemelka supplies.