By Matthew Boyle
Everyone’s talking about the four-day workweek. So far, at least, hardly anyone’s actually doing it.
Executives considered a shortened workweek the most-wanted recruitment and retention strategy by far when polled by Gartner Inc., but only 6% of those same senior leaders said they’re doing it or even planning to at their organization. Instead, companies are more likely to be increasing paid time off or giving workers more flexibility on when they start and end work each day.
The survey, conducted in late April, found that executives most feared a loss of productivity if they shifted to time-based strategies like a four-day workweek, which has been tested at startups and also a few big employers including Cisco Systems Inc. and Unilever Plc.
The findings come just as California lawmakers shelved a proposal to institute a statewide four-day workweek for hourly employees, showing how difficult widespread adoption of the measure might be. While some experiments with shorter workweeks, like one in Iceland, resulted in improved productivity and reduced stress, others have been mixed, and business groups such as the California Chamber of Commerce are strongly opposed to it. Americans work longer hours, and take less time off, than most other developed nations.
The four-day debate also provides a window into the disconnect between what employees are looking for in the workplace and what managers are willing to offer, exposing fault lines on topics such as the efficacy of remote work, employee benefits and salary increases at a time of rampant inflation.
For companies that are trying out some variation of a four-day workweek, flexibility and feedback are key. Cisco’s test began earlier this year with employees in its human-resources department, and includes two eight-week phases. One phase includes working 10-hour days, four days a week, and the second phase included getting every other Friday off. Cisco will then scour data and poll employees to see which approach worked better. Fran Katsoudas, Cisco’s Chief People, Policy and Purpose officer, said employee participation in the test was about double what she expected, and she’s gotten inquiries from leaders in other departments about expanding it.
“Our people are ready to try new and different things,” she said in an interview last month. “I think with these new ways of working, it’s all about trying to figure out how you make it work with everything else you have going on in your life.”
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