EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re writing a series of posts exploring recent trends that are challenging workplace norms and causing companies to rethink long-standing policies. View our take on remote work.
One of the most radical workplace ideas to take shape recently has been companies moving from a 40-hour work week (i.e. five 8-hour days) to a 32-hour work week (i.e. four 8-hour days).
Companies like Shake Shack, Basecamp, Beardbrand and others are testing out this new work paradigm, and they’re not meeting a lot of resistance. According to this USA Today article, “a third of workers globally (and 40% in the U.S.) would prefer a four-day week.” It’s a bit surprising that more employees are not in favor of this schedule.
Implicit in this move by companies is the acknowledgment that while their staff may be working 40 hours a week, they’re not working 40 hours a week. If only 32 hours of real work is being done in an average week, is it possible to eliminate the excess and squeeze that amount of work into four days?
A survey of roughly 3,000 employees across eight countries found that roughly 45 percent of full-time employees say it should take less than five hours each day to do their jobs if they work without interruption.
If everyone understands that the same amount of stuff still needs to get done, then I believe a 32-hour work week has a chance to be successful. Also, it’s a big incentive for people to waste less time in the office if they know that they can have a three-day weekend. Theoretically, anything that decreases productivity (i.e. scheduling pointless meetings) will be second-guessed in that environment because there is less catch-up time with such limited office hours.
On the flip side, it’s important to consider sick days that result in three-day work weeks for employees. This scenario could be more disruptive when each day in the office is that much more valuable. In addition, employees may buy into the “work smarter, not harder” mantra, but if that translates into working smarter and less hard, a 32-hour work week won’t function well. Cutting back office hours also is problematic in client-facing roles if your partners expect you to be available when they’re working.
I believe that the most important consideration companies must take into account before instituting this policy is the maturity of your employees and how goal-driven and accountable your work culture is. Well-intentioned employees in the right work environment won’t care about official work hours because they’ll do what is necessary to reach their objectives – whether that requires 40 hours or 32 hours of work each week.
Every company should aspire to that.
Are you introducing any new and innovative workplace policies? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll highlight any cool ideas in a subsequent blog post.