Reducing the number of working days for employees is an idea that more and more companies are embracing. But is a four-day week really effective in retaining talent? Here’s how to effectively shorten your employees’ working week.
The benefits of a four-day week for companies and employees
In the wake of the successive lockdowns that have marked the beginning of this decade, employees are demanding more flexible work arrangements. A four-day week, like remote working, is a flexible approach that benefits both employees and employers. By rethinking work in terms of quality rather than quantity of days worked, companies have a unique opportunity to improve their overall performance and retain their employees.
Remote working and a four-day week are both tools to help employees balance their lives. At a time when the French view of work is changing with more emphasis on personal fulfilment, providing more suitable working conditions is essential. Introducing more flexibility in the way employees do their work and achieve their goals is the best way to empower them and boost your employer brand.
Reducing the number of working days: mistakes to avoid
Reducing the number of working days from five to four involves following a rigorous method. First of all, it’s important to identify the employees who can benefit from this arrangement. Indeed, certain sectors that require employees to work on site or that have shifts in place may not necessarily be able to reduce the number of working days. Companies that can, however, should take care to avoid certain pitfalls.
To start with, it’s essential to balance employees’ workload. Requiring tasks that normally take five days to be completed in only four risks increasing stress among employees and affecting quality. There is a risk that employees will decide to work on their day off to even out their work, thus negating their desire for a better work-life balance. Similarly, it’s difficult to reduce the number of working days but keep the same number of hours per week. Shortening the week only to lengthen working days will only have negative consequences on employees’ health and the quality of work produced.
Another temptation for quite a few companies is to reduce wages. Removing a working day from the week and consequently taking away a day’s pay from employees is counterproductive. Again, there is no benefit for the employees or for the company. Faced with the ‘Great Resignation’ that is shaking up the French job market, reducing pay is the last thing to do to prevent mass departures. Moving to a four-day week means employees need to be paid the same as for a five-day week, which implies comparable performance.
In reality, introducing a four-day week can be fraught with danger. Unless the conditions are met, a company’s performance, its employees’ development and the attractiveness of its employer brand can suffer greatly from this restructuring. So, how do you strike the right balance and remove a working day in an effective and relevant way?
Incentive compensation is essential for moving to a four-day week
When switching to a four-day week, incentive compensation is an essential mechanism. Indeed, when working hours are reduced, what matters is targets and the way they’re evaluated. This is why this type of working arrangement can only be used with employees who have a specific task to perform rather than tasks to be carried out at a set time.
Targets are essential for shorter working hours, as they ensure that the level of performance is the same in a shorter week. If the targets are met, it means that the reduction in working time is meaningful and appropriate for staff. Naturally, it’s essential to keep the same fixed salary despite the change to a four-day week. And to evaluate and reward the performance achieved, it’s important to use incentive compensation.
By combining a four-day week with incentive compensation, the employer ensures that working time is used efficiently. The company’s overall strategy is boosted and the employer brand benefits significantly. As for employees, they feel empowered, reassured by their employer’s trust and motivated by the targets to be attained. This makes it possible to achieve a work-life balance and the time spent working for the company is seen as genuinely useful.
Many employers are still suspicious of the implementation of remote working and the four-day week, which are wrongly perceived as detrimental to work. However, working shorter hours or remotely isn’t synonymous with decreased efficiency. To ensure this, realistic targets should be set and rewarded with a coherent bonus scheme. Given the evolution of the job market and the expectations of French workers, the four-day week seems to be an interesting means of motivation and retention, provided that the arrangements are sensibly defined and combined with a genuine policy of incentive compensation.