Is a four day work week possible and sustainable? In many organizations, public and private sector, this conversation is coming up more often than not. Many staff are asking for compressed work weeks, to be able to work one day a week from home and in some cases, are asking to shorten the work week altogether to four days instead of five.
In a society where many are now working seven days a week, as people are busier than ever, it is possible to implement and sustain a four day work week without the organization suffering? It’s one thing perhaps for staff to work four days a week, but would it ever be possible for management or senior leadership?
I asked this question to a client of mine recently and he immediately dismissed it as impossible. But consider for a moment, would this teach people to work smarter? People never seem to have enough time to do their work and do it well but they always seem to have time to do it over. If work effectiveness was honed to such an extent, priorities defined (and stuck to) couldn’t it be possible to work four days a week? With increased effectiveness, even then there never seems to be enough time to get everything done within existing tight deadlines. How in the world would it be possible to meet those deadlines if you’re working less hours and can’t seem to stay on top of things even with working overtime?
I’d love your three cents on this. Is your organization thinking of implementing a four day work week and if so, has it been successful? As well, those who are working four days, what level are they working at in the organization? Are any in senior leadership positions?
There is a theory that if a four day work week was the norm, people wouldn’t be as burned out and would have more energy to work smarter and get the job done. There are many variables at play. What day of the week does one take off? Does it have to be uniform right through the organization so everyone takes Friday or Monday or in some cases, Wednesday? I remember the days when you took it for granted that your physician wouldn’t be in on Wednesdays. There was a running joke that if you needed a doctor, you could find him or her on the golf course, especially in summer. If there was an emergency people went to the hospital anyways, so what was wrong with working a four day work week? It seemed to work back then as it does for many physicians now. If people who deal with major health issues and patients’ well-being were able to do it, why not the corporate world? I’d be fascinated to hear the answer to that one.
What would your life look like if that was true for you? With the present intensity of the workplace, the long hours and frequent burn out, couldn’t it mean a better and more effective work environment if we slowed down to the speed of life? Think about it. How can it happen?
Donna Karlin Executive and Political Shadow Coach Ottawa, Canada •www.abetterperspective.com