Since the pandemic, many changes have been made to several elements of our lifestyles.
From highly favoured remote working to different ways of socialising on social media, the 4 day work week is becoming another buzz term, attracting much attention among small and larger businesses alike.
In fact, many studies are finding that the 4 day work week benefits small businesses the most. Banks Benitez, CEO of Uncharted, a small business, notes that a 4 day work week is a great recruitment tool. “We are a small business,” he noted. “We aren’t going to be in the top 1% of compensation, but we will be in the top 1% of workweeks.” Many take pride in working long hours and there is a pressure to be constantly available. Yet the four-day workweek draws clear boundaries between work and non-work time.
Before we start breaking down the benefits and guiding you as to how creative agencies can implement the 4 day work week, let’s look at the history and contemporary context of working hours and why this move towards a 3 day weekend isn’t as radical as it may seem.
In 1890, the United States government estimated that a full-time employee within a manufacturing plant worked an average of 100 hours a week (that’s 16 hours a day, 6 days a week). By the mid-20th century, manufacturing employees only worked 40 hours a week. Reducing our current work week to 28 hours isn’t nearly as radical.
Today, many studies and technological advancements are showing that AI technology will significantly disrupt every aspect of every industry in every country including how and when we work. Within the near future, we’re likely to see an increase in remote and more flexible work schedules like the 4 day work week. In fact, TUC thinks that a 4 day work week could become a reality within this century if businesses are forced to share the benefits of new technology with their employees.
Okay, enough with the history and business lesson. Let’s breakdown how implementing a 4 day work week can benefit creative agencies:
Productivity does not decrease, in fact, it may increase by means of motivation and focus!
New Zealand based company, Perpetual Guardian, conducted a trial study of a 4 day work week. Not only did employees maintain the same productivity level, but they also showed improvements in job satisfaction, teamwork, work/life balance and company loyalty. Employees also experienced less stress with a decrease of 45% to 38%.
Employees stay more engaged and focused
The three-day weekend really gives employees time to recharge. It resets the brain and ensures workers are well-rested. A 4 day week can lead to happier and more committed employees. In creative industries as well, this setting of a positive mindset is super important as it encourages the creative muscle to work and even allows people who don’t create to have a more open-minded perspective on the work they’re promoting/working for. Employees are less likely to be stressed or take sick leave as they have plenty of time to rest and recover. As a result, they return to work feeling ready to take on new challenges.
Even in less creative fields that require intense focus, studies have found astounding outcomes. From 2015 to 2017, Sweden conducted a trial study into a shorter work week. Nurses at a care home worked only 6 hours for five days a week. Results were largely positive with nurses logging less sick hours, reporting better health and mental wellbeing and greater engagement as they arranged 85% more activities for patients in their care.
Your business will produce a smaller carbon footprint
Countries with shorter working hours typically have a smaller carbon footprint so reducing our work week from 5 to 4 days could have an environmental benefit too. Shortening our working week means that employees don’t need to commute as much and large office buildings are only in use four days a week.
It doesn’t mean less work if you reconfigure the time spent at work:
Wanderlust, a small creative business based in Newport, Rhode Island, didn’t cut pay, downsize any goals or increase the hours during the working days. What it did was reconfigure the time spent at work. Melillo chose Mondays because the day was always jammed with meetings.
A 4 day work week can teach the importance of trusting employees, good communication and being flexible.
The 4 day work week aligns more with the way creative freelancers work and that creates a sense of unity within the field and can strengthen the bond between agency and freelancer. Also, the fact that you trust your employees to get their work done on time creates a bond of respect and as long as communication is clear, great work shall arise!
Something that is worth noting however, is the way the 4 day work week is split in terms of hours. There are some companies that approach the 4 day work week in a way that asks employees to still work the same amount of hours as a five day work week but pack it into four days. Elephant Ventures is an example of this; their workdays are 10 to 11 hours long and lunch and other breaks are strongly encouraged. Employees start the day at 7 a.m and gain uninterrupted time without client service interaction, which, according to its founder Art Shectman, boosts productivity.
However, many businesses find that employees who are expected to still work 35 hours, but across 4 days will actually show decreased levels of productivity and it can also impact employees’ engagement, work-life balance and overall happiness. This suggests that to achieve the desired effects a 4 day work week should consist of standard 7 hour work days.
Maybe try implementing the 4 day work week on a bi-weekly basis first and see how things go?..