Squeezing a full work week into fewer days might seem counterproductive to some but it is also a perk that is one of the most desired by workers. In fact, two-thirds of employees in a 2019 survey by staffing company Robert Half expressed that they wanted a compressed workweek. Interestingly, however, only 17% of companies actually offer this benefit. That all may be about to change.
A Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey of small business owners in August 2020 suggested that 43% of small business owners were considering implementing compressed workweeks in order to accommodate their employees. The pandemic, and the growing popularity of remote work, have accelerated many of these plans.
What is a Compressed Work Week?
A typical workweek in North America is five days in length with workers putting in eight hours per day. That translates into 40 work hours per week. This is, of course, on paper and is simply the average. Many workers work more than this, and others may work substantially less.
That said, 40 hours is the acceptable standard. A compressed workweek fits these same 40 hours into just four days, gifting workers with a three-day weekend every week. This structure has proven to be a hit with many of the employees and employers who have implemented it.
Here are some of the reasons why your business should consider offering a compressed workweek to your workforce.
Healthier, Happier Workers
While a lot of attention is given to the fact that millennials will choose work-life balance and flexibility even above salary, there may also be substantial benefits to compressed workweeks for older workers. A day off can offer them time to volunteer, travel, pursue a passion, take care of elderly parents or spend some time with a grandchild. In short, it provides a better work-life balance.
There is a definitive link between improved work-life balance and improved physical and mental health. Additionally, happier workers are generally healthier workers. There is also some evidence that a compressed workweek can create health benefits beyond better work-life balance.
During a 2019 experiment with a compressed workweek, Microsoft Japan also found that employee morale increased, and absenteeism dropped. It makes sense. Employees were spending less time commuting, had greater flexibility in their lives and their extended weekends translated into more time to relax. This means less stress for your workers.
All of this can lead to happier workers, but there is also evidence that it can lead to employees being more satisfied in their work. When Utah recently instituted a compressed workweek for state employees, it also discovered an increase in morale amongst staff. It was hardly a surprise then that Utah’s official audit of the program revealed that 81% of workers wanted to stay with the compressed schedule.
The Energy Boost
We all get excited by the prospect of a three-day weekend. That thrill doesn’t end when every week features an extended weekend. Employees are more energetic and reinvigorated after a three-day rest than they are after the usual two days. That pays off in numerous ways. For example, Utah’s employees took fewer sick days and reported spending their days off exercising. The compressed workweek allows employees to assume personal accountability for their time and to become their own efficiency experts.
This efficiency often means fewer unproductive and inefficient tasks such as meetings and less time wasted on social media and lengthy breaks.
Workers on a compressed workweek are happier, more focused and have greater job satisfaction. And, according to most companies that have tried out a compressed workweek, these employees are more energetic when they are at work. This energy boost further translates to increased productivity.
The Productivity Fallacy
Workers do not necessarily work more if they work longer. In fact, some research suggests that the opposite may be true. The belief that people can tire out and are less productive with a compressed workweek is not supported by the evidence. Microsoft Japan, for example, reported that productivity rose a stunning 40% during their 2019 experiment with a compressed workweek. Utah reported similar results with its implementation of a compressed workweek.
While there are clear benefits for employees, there are also benefits for employers. A contented workforce is one. Productivity is another. There is also evidence that a compressed workweek aids both attraction and retention of workers.
There is also a potential for substantial cost savings with a compressed workweek. Utah, for example, found significant savings on everything from energy costs to photocopying when their workers started working ten-hour days just four days per week. There were similar reductions in personal leave and compensatory time off. Overall, Utah saved almost $1 million in overhead and operating costs. The same was true of Microsoft Japan.
Other efficiencies exist. Organizations can remain open longer to the public with compressed workweeks, particularly if they stagger the optional days off among their employees. This can result in shorter wait times and fewer lines. In short, a compressed workweek can provide better, more responsive customer service.
A New Way of Working
Compressed workweeks aren’t an option for all workforces. However, for those who are able to implement it, it is well worth considering.