The American work week is in flux. If you haven’t noticed that in your own company, you will and probably soon. If the 2020 national COVID lockdown taught us anything, it was that corporately, we could survive working from home instead of the office. Last year, the “Great Resignation” revealed most employees actually preferred it. What’s curious, is while most people have happily returned to restaurants, concerts, vacations, movies and even church, there is still a pronounced hesitance to return to the office five days a week. Across the country, much of company leadership seems torn about changing work week dynamics and what the new normal should look like. Employees are not. The push for a 4-day work week is coming. And for those willing to consider doing things a little differently, it could be critical to attracting and keeping outstanding talent.
A little history.
Adjusting the parameters of the American work week is nothing new. We’ve been doing it for almost 200 years. In the 1830s, the manufacturing work week averaged just under 70 hours. By the turn of the century, that number had fallen to 60 hours and continued to trend down slowly until the U.S. entered the Great Depression. That’s when we shifted to the five day, 40-hour work week we enjoy now in the hope of spreading more work to more people. Admittedly, working 40 hours a week is a bit of a misnomer. The average is more than 47 and during the COVID lockdown, employees actually worked longer hours at home than they did at the office.
While there is certainly an ongoing debate about working from home vs. working at the office, here, we’re looking at the prospect of moving to a 4-day work week, why that seems to be gaining momentum, and why it could actually be beneficial to you and your team.
Trust goes a long way.
A few weeks ago on LinkedIn, Crumbl Cookies CEO Sawyer Hemsley posted that for the summer, the company would be shortening the work week and giving Crumbl employees their Fridays back. “At 300 employees, that’s over 14,000 hours given back to meaningful relationships!” Hemsley said. But then he went a bit further explaining why the cult cookie brand was making the move. “Research has shown that with this approach workers are less stressed, value their jobs more, and have better lives outside of work! On top of all of that, productivity remains the same, if not improves! We fully believe this will benefit employees, the company, and society.”
For some like Crumbl, the move to a 4-day work week is a fun perk for the summer when things often tend to slow down a bit anyway. But what might that look like on a permanent basis? In a recent survey of more than 10,000 workers by Slack’s Future Forum, 95 percent of knowledge workers said they wanted schedule flexibility.