The four-day workweek: Focus on the journey and not the destination

Before implementing a four-day workweek, organisations need to better understand their workforce needs and what employees want.
By: | August 7, 2023

While the pandemic has reshaped how many organisations work, it has also caused employees to rethink the role work plays in their lives. Many employees now desire a more flexible work schedule that accommodates personal needs, which is driving curiosity around the four-day workweek, suggested Saikat Chatterjee, Senior Director, People Advisory, EMEA & APAC, Gartner.

He told HRM Asia, “Once seen as impossible, the four-day workweek has slowly begun to gain traction. Recent global studies have found that the four-day workweek is becoming an increasingly attractive proposition for employers looking to reduce costs, retain and attract talent, and enhance employee wellbeing.”

To overcome challenges such as ensuring continuity of operations and fairness across the workforce, and managing a condensed work schedule, organisations interested in implementing a four-day workweek can start by selecting a structure that best suits their workforce needs, Chatterjee recommended.

For example, reducing working hours from 40 to 32 can be considered when employee health and combating fatigue are priorities and longer shifts cannot be introduced. Distributing 40 working hours over four days rather than five however, may be more suitable when it is possible to work longer hours with flexible deadline and weekly input hours cannot be compromised.

Next, understand what employees want, as Chatterjee explained, “Although many employees prefer a four-day workweek as an innovative benefit, it may not work for all employees. Seeking employee feedback via pulse surveys is an effective way to gauge employee interest and predict participation.”

According to a LinkedIn poll conducted by HRM Asia, 64% of respondents believe a four-day workweek is feasible and indicate a positive inclination towards alternative work arrangements that prioritise wellbeing and productivity. However, 15% of respondents expressed concerns about its practicality, while 20% remained unsure and sought more understanding of the potential impact and challenges before forming a definitive option. 

READ MORE: The weekend begins on Friday for Grayling Singapore employees

To address the perceived barriers to implementing a four-day workweek and meet individual needs, Chatterjee proposed a “crawl-walk-run” approach to implementation, which enables leadership to gradually adjust, including to operational challenges when they arise.

He elaborated, “The crawl stage represents an experimental stage, such as a pilot to trial a four-day workweek or even a four-and-a-half-day workweek. The second intermediate stage involves a more direct approach, where organisations might consider expanding the pilot’s scope to allow for continuous improvements in the application.”

“The final desired stage is the run stage. This is where ultimately organisations should strive for the organisation wide and permanent implementation of a four-day workweek.”