He works in public relations in London and his new work schedule has forced him to better organize his time.
He manages to meet deadlines, keeps his assignments on schedule, and still gets an extra day off work each week. Most importantly, he has only recently been a father and can spend more time with his son.
His rest day varies between Tuesday and Wednesday. But in an environment that is always on, he still needs to be available for emergencies on his day off and work longer on other days to make up for it.
According to Kamgöz, “the boundaries between home and work are becoming blurred.” “Sunday night, I was going to do my errands and divide my time as best I could.” But he says all the compensation was worth it.
“I was pleased to be able to spend more time with my son, which would not have been possible otherwise. The financial pressures have eased: that extra day at home allowed me to save £400 (2,500 BRL) a month using nursery school. ”
But some of the older members of his team were not happy with this mode of work, as they preferred the traditional schedule. “I thought I was doing well, but my boss didn’t feel the same,” Camgoes says. “Professional, they were seeing me less, so they thought I was producing less.”
Without receiving clear comments, he ended up not knowing for sure where he really was. Even after six months, Camgoes had the opportunity to be promoted, but with one condition: he would need to resume his five-day-a-week schedule.
Since the pandemic has brought unprecedented changes to the world of work, there has been much discussion about the four-day work week. Touted as a panacea for burnout and work stress, companies and even governments have experimented with the idea. Initial findings point to potential benefits, which include improved work-life balance and increased well-being, without compromising employee productivity.
But even when a working day is cleared from the calendar, the workload, in many cases, remains the same. Faced with a tighter schedule, workers often have to adapt to new practices and increased working hours.
And as Kamgauz discovered, a rapid shift to a new way of working can raise questions — especially if not everyone is fully prepared for that change. This means that a four-day work week can bring many positives, but it can also have unintended consequences for some people.
Evolution of the four-day work week
Discussions about the length of the work week are not new. As early as 1926, Ford Motor Company standardized the week from Monday to Friday. The previous practice was for six days a week, with Sundays only to rest.
Henry Ford’s theory was that the five days [de trabalho]For the same pay, it will increase worker productivity because people will put in more effort in the shorter workweek,” according to Jim Harter, chief scientist for Workplace Management and Wellness at US-based survey firm Gallup, based in Nebraska.
To a large extent, Ford’s theory has been proven correct. In the decades that followed, the five-day work week became common practice.
But in the 1950s, there were calls from trade unions to introduce the four-day-a-week system. According to Harter, “People are beginning to imagine that if we took another day out of the week, it would be better.”
In March 2020, a Gallup study of more than 10,000 full-time US employers showed that only 5% had adopted shorter work weeks. Adoption of the four-day work week remained slow, until the pandemic caused some leaders to reconsider the problem, which led to a significant growth in the number of attempts and advertisements to shorten the work week.
“Recent changes in work have accelerated the four-day movement,” said Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, California program director at 4 Day Week Global and a proponent of a shorter work week.
For him, “The pandemic has made it clear that we can fundamentally change the way we work. [a tendência que levou um número recorde de trabalhadores norte-americanos a deixar seus empregos durante a pandemia de covid-19] Get companies looking for new hiring and retention tools [de funcionários]. ”
There are various models for a four-day work week, from eliminating a working day, reducing working hours and paying the same wage, to intensive working hours, during which five-day work is grouped into four longer shifts.
Often the goal is the first scenario, achieved through a combination of new tools and operating practices that increase efficiency and lead to greater worker welfare, enhancing productivity. But if operational changes are not carefully planned, there is a high risk of the occurrence of the second situation.
“A common mistake is for a company to say, ‘Let’s start on Monday and work out as we go,'” according to Pang. “This can create major problems down the road.”
How does the work of five days fit into four?
As entrepreneurs have made some pilot schemes permanent in recent months, employees have become familiar with the characteristics and generality of a four-day work week.
Jennifer Shepherd says the transition to a shorter work week has been “transformative.” Durham UK employer – fintech Atom – introduced a four-day work week in November 2021 for all of its 430 employees.
“Friday is now a special day that I spend with my one-year-old daughter,” she says.
Andy Ellingworth from Leeds, UK based design agency Punch Creative has been working four days a week since 2020 and greatly appreciates his extra day off. “Friday afternoons aren’t historically the most productive,” he says.
“Now on Friday I can explore my hobbies, play tennis and go on long walks. I also have more time to prepare ideas and techniques that I can present on Monday morning. I don’t want to go back to the work week. Five days,” says Ellingworth.
But Illingworth and Shepherd know that getting all the work done in four days instead of five can come at a cost. Illingworth’s mandatory work schedule is now 90 minutes longer each day, Monday through Thursday.
“I work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a 30-minute lunch break,” he explains. “We need to cut our lunch hour in half. But I feel more refreshed, focused and productive, working four days in a row.”
On the other hand, the shepherd adapts to the more intense pace of work. “There are still times when I panic in the middle of a Thursday afternoon and remember I don’t have another day at work to finish everything,” she says. “But now I use my time more efficiently. I can work when it’s convenient. When the kids are in bed, I can log in and do some intense work, with the relief of not getting emails or instant messages.”
The Gallup poll also revealed the positive and negative effects of a shorter work week. As employee well-being increases and burnout decreases with the passing of four days a week, so does the lack of commitment. Workers who already feel disconnected from the company tend to relocate if they work fewer days.
Some employees may resist the stressful week imposed by their employer, which may have longer working hours and fewer shifts. Others may already be working at full speed, which means that a shorter work week may negatively affect the management of your workload.
According to Harter, “there are employees who will end up trying to absorb more work in the four days, when before that they had more flexibility to work for five days.” “Arriving on a Thursday afternoon without finishing your work while everyone else is going home can create stress and resentment.”
One potential pitfall in the four-day workweek, Pang says, is the impact on the workforce: Employees are so focused on getting their jobs done on a tight schedule that the flame of collaboration is extinguished. “Offices can look like ghost towns,” he adds.
But Illingworth believes that “small adaptation problems” can be corrected over time. “Our workplace has a dynamic atmosphere,” he says. “Running to finish work on a Thursday afternoon doesn’t happen often.”
The importance of operational planning
Currently, many companies are looking for new ways to attract and retain the best talent.
According to a recent survey of 4,000 workers in the United States, 83% of them want to work four days a week. This raises the possibility that companies will rush to a shorter work week and hastily envision fundamental policy changes.
But Pang cautions that rather than putting more pressure on employees to work faster for fewer days, careful planning and preparation is critical to making the business model sustainable.
“I don’t know of many companies that succeed without radically changing their day-to-day operations,” he says. “It is critical to design a shorter work week that is fair to everyone, from executives to frontline workers.”
Harter suggests that a more personalized work model—which may include a shorter workweek—may be a better solution than simply imposing a four-day standard on all employees.
He says, “A four-day work week may be the answer for some people, but flexible working is a desire for most workers, it brings greater commitment and well-being and fits into the modern workplace.”
Camgöz eventually agreed to the promotion and went back to his five-day weekly work schedule, but would like to resume the four-day work week in the future—a work schedule that Shepherd and Illingworth would not compromise. But they all found that putting the new business model into practice had consequences, whether in the form of longer work days, higher pressure on Thursdays, or concerns about what their bosses thought.
In Camjos’ case, he realized that for this scheme to work, it needed more alignment between its goals, the culture of the workplace, and the personalities of the people involved.
“The initial decision to give me a four-day work week was made in good faith, but it showed that making these decisions requires a lot of thought,” he said. “In this case, it probably didn’t happen.”
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