I have been asked lately a lot about the different generations and a 4-day work week. People are often surprised to hear that while it is a step in the right direction, I don’t believe it is the ultimate direction.
Here would be my top three reasons…
More Burnout: There is no denying that everyone is looking for balance in their lives but squeezing your work into 4 days vs 5 isn’t necessarily the answer. While you may open up a day for more personal time, the workload isn’t getting any lighter or going away. The pressure to get it done in less time could cause people to burn out during the 4 days that they are working. If people are cramming all their to-dos into one less day, I am concerned that the balance scale will only become more unbalanced, and people will need the extra day just to recover.
Less Face Time: Research shows from countries like New Zealand who have implemented a 4-day work week that people are more productive. This is not a bad thing. However, what this does say to me is that people will be more “heads down” getting things done during those four days. This may not be a good thing as people will be less inclined to look up. We know that the younger generations who are hungry to get ahead in their careers are looking to build social capital with leaders. This requires more casual conversation around the infamous water cooler or even conference table. Throw in a hybrid work-from-home scenario and the amount of face time diminishes even more.
Wrong Model: 9am-5pm, Monday – Friday is a traditional model and yes, all about trying to have work and life in balance. Sure, 9am – 5pm, Monday – Thursday, creates an extra personal day, but as mentioned, I’m not convinced it achieves the balance that is being sought after. Since work is no longer a place and workers can log on and log in from anywhere at any time, where and when the job gets done is becoming more irrelevant. The model that I think we should ultimately be looking for is work life blend where work and life are 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This model is all about managing to performance. Rather than focus on how many days someone is working, focus on the job that they are doing. Be so clear with expectations and deadlines – as well as how to report in – and then leave it up to the employee to get it done. Managers’ focus is on if employees are doing the job they need, and employees’ job is to create the balance they need. If the work isn’t sufficed, then managers can express concerns. If employees are burning out, then it is their job to speak up.