When I started my undergrad over a decade ago, the University I attended began exploring alternate forms of cost reduction to avoid raising tuition prices - again. The school embarked to roll out a #four-day school week. Classes would be held Monday to Thursday, an hour, & a half per class replacing the previous schedule of One-hour classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and one & a half hour classes on Tuesday and Thursday. Classes were also streamlined, to eliminate classes with 10 or less students. We were a tad bit iffy about the long classes everyday to begin with, like all things change is not always an easy pill to swallow. The four- day week turned out to be one of the best things I experienced at school. The ‘Luxury’ of a #three-dayweekend, made me realize the possibilities of work life. It drove the point home that nothing is permanent, we can adjust as society changes to implement policies that impact the current lifestyle of people positively. As it turned out for my school, this cost saving measure, was so successful, it continued throughout my tenure there and beyond.
In addition to the cost saving measures, grades went up. More students turned in assignments on time. Personally, I was able to balance, my part-time work schedule, debating practice, schoolwork while finding the time and energy to attend weekend parties and BBQ’s- a must for a college student! When I graduated, I became sort of an advocate for the four-day work week. Over the last decade, I have pitched the idea to various colleagues who often laugh me to scorn, while the idea is great in theory, they cannot envision Caribbean employers taking this leap.
The five-day work week was implemented in the 20th Century, decades after the industrial revolution. Lobbyist advocated for better working conditions and reduced working hours from 80 or more hours a week. The system was designed so individuals worked a full day, producing and manufacturing whatever they were hired to do. We can only imagine the number of poets, novelist, painters we lost during this era. It was Henry Ford in 1926, who made the 5-day work week popular. He discovered through research, that working more yielded only a very small increase in productivity and lasted a short period of time. He closed his factories on Saturdays and Sundays and other companies in the US and around the world sluggishly followed suit. However, it was not until 1940 the 40-day work week became law in the U.S. This was 81 years ago!
Over the last two years, as most people recalibrate what really matters during this global pandemic, more employees started questioning the status Quo and the feasibility of a 5-day work week with a myriad of competing life responsibilities. Is the 20th Century 5-day, 40 hour work week in sync with our 21st century lifestyle?
Fast forward to two years into a Global Pandemic and the Great resignation, the #Four-day work week is the new hot topic of discussion. Unfortunately, the conversation has not trickled down to our part of the region- as yet.
In a recent CNBC news article, (4-day work week, here’s what they learned) Banks Benitez, Co-Founder and CEO of Uncharted, moved to a #Four-day week last summer by giving employees Fridays off. He went on to add, we learned how to downsize meetings and deprioritize. “There are so many parts of the workweek that are just a waste of time,” he said. Benitez, stated the company maintained the same quality of work, the four day work week forced them to think differently and be more efficient with their new work hours. He likened it to when Airline companies changed luggage regulations, you adapted to the new requirements. The upside he pointed out were, employees were happier and there was a reduction in work stress and burnout. The pilot worked so well, they now use the re-framed work week as a perk when recruiting.
Benitez, added the new work week allows employees to pinpoint what really moves the ball and focus on getting that done.
Wanderlust, based in New Port Rhode Island, moved to a four-day workweek during the pandemic- adding Mondays to the weekend. The company reported an increase in productivity and a 136% year on year growth in sales. Mike Melillo, the CEO and Co-Founder of the company shared, meetings are now concise and direct, and the overall team communication improved significantly. Melillo continued, this experienced taught us we have to really trust our employees to get the job done.
Other companies who switched to a 4-day work week, similarly to my college extending working hours on the four days. The 40-hour work week is maintained, but employees have a longer weekend to recharge, and pursue passion projects.
With the convivence at our fingertips 24/7, our culture of instant gratification, and the increasing demands of capitalism, a #four-day work week would not work or be best practice for every industry. However, given the recent spike in entrepreneurship and corporate resignations, it sends a clear signal that the modus operandi must be re-evaluated. Working conditions today must foster balance and the overall well-being of the employee. The pandemic allowed individuals to slow down, think deeply about what really matters and seek a life which aligns with same. Are employers willing to make drastic changes to meet the needs of the 21st century workforce, or will it be business as usual once we see the end of the pandemic.
I would love to hear your thoughts on a #Four-day work week, please share.