How a four-day workweek unlocks employee engagement

- August 17, 2023 2 MIN READ


There’s a lot of curiosity among Australian organisations to implement a four-day workweek, but it’s not right for every business. Here’s what you need to know before giving it a go, writes Robin Boomer, Director, HR Advisory, Gartner.

The radical idea that we can work less to achieve more has been gaining traction as organisations share their tales of testing the virtues and limitations of the four-day workweek.

So far, the data is compelling. A trial undertaken last year in the UK saw 60 companies across different industries introduce a four-day workweek while maintaining full pay. The study showed that worker stress decreased by 39 per cent, staff turnover reduced by 57 per cent and revenue improved by 1.4 per cent on average.

But is the four-day work week right for your business?

The model matters

When it comes to introducing a four-day workweek, there is no standard model for organisations to follow. Every approach will look different depending on the needs of the business, employees, stakeholders, partners and customers.

The approach can be based on working hours or days, undertaken as a group or with an individual roster, with each having its own benefits and drawbacks. Typically, organisations will choose one of the following:

  • Condensed work week: Organisations continue to work a 40-hour week but over the course of four days with 10-hour shifts. However, it may cause fatigue.
  • Reduced work week: Companies reduce the week to 32 hours and have four days of eight-hour shifts. While this is less likely to cause fatigue, it is a risk in terms of productivity.
  • Universal day off: The entire organisation selects a weekday to suspend work.
  • Distributed day off: Employees’ days off are staggered to ensure coverage and presence for crucial business functions.

How to successfully implement a four-day workweek

One of the main reasons four-day workweek pilots fail is because leaders and HR managers fundamentally don’t believe the model will work for them.

To be successful, it is crucial that leaders and HR managers set out clear goals and objectives for the pilot and clearly communicate these to staff, stakeholders and customers.

It’s also important to allow the organisation time to adapt to the change and, where possible, provide staff with the opportunity to contribute before making it a permanent model for the business. For example, the crawl-walk-run method can allow organisations to experiment and react in real-time to potential challenges associated with the introduction of a four-day workweek.

In the ‘crawl’ stage, select departments or individuals participate in an initial pilot to identify opportunities and challenges that can be addressed.

The ‘walk’ stage expands the pilot by taking on initial feedback and then applying it throughout the organisation for a short period of time.

The final ‘run’ stage is when the desired model the organisation has agreed upon is implemented all year round.

The four-day workweek has the potential to deliver positive work/life balance results for staff and enhance bottom line results, provided you can invest in getting the model right for your business.

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