90% of Canadian managers support the 4-day week – but can HR deliver?

The model might be more flexible, but is it getting at the root of the issue?

90% of Canadian managers support the 4-day week – but can HR deliver?

The majority of Canadian managers (nine in 10) support the idea of a four-day workweek.

And 69% of them predict that their organizations will adopt the model in the next five years, according to research from Robert Half.

While it might be a perk from an employee point of view, for HR leaders, the logistics could be tricky to navigate. In order to pre-emp any potential issues, Deborah Bottineau, managing director, Robert Half Canada, advises leaders to contemplate individual business requirements before making the jump.

“Some key questions to consider are: ‘Will everyone will be on the same schedule or will they be staggered? How will the longer workdays be managed, especially with personal commitments like childcare needing to be factored in for some employees? What are the work expectations? How will we maintain communication and project consistency, in particular if people are on staggered schedules?’

“Companies could also consider bringing in extra support and resources where possible to help maintain consistency during the transition period.”

Will a four-day workweek help or hinder mental health?

Setting aside HR logistics, the plan is clearly a winner with Canadian employees – with 7 in 10 workers saying they’d put in four 10-hour days in exchange for an additional day off each week. 

“Giving staff autonomy over their schedules demonstrates trust, which is proven to help boost morale and job satisfaction,” says Bottineau. “While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and every business has its own unique set of requirements, flexibility is the way forward. A four-day workweek is one of the ways it can manifest, and one of the flexible options that Robert Half research shows is top of mind for many professionals.”

As Bottineau explains, allowing employees to build a schedule that works best for them and their families shows trust, which in turn can lead to increased wellbeing and engagement. It can also lead to greater productivity — an extra day off can help workers feel more refreshed and motivated to tackle their projects during their working days.

Helping employees manage heavy workloads

While the four-day week sounds great in theory, is it symptomatic to the bigger issue at hand, meaning overwork and burnout? Data from Accountemps found that 96% of leaders and 95% of employees are burned out – with leaders predicting we’re heading for a mental health epidemic.

To solve the problem at hand, HR leaders need to encourage more open conversations between senior management and their teams, says Bottineau.

“Assessing options to prioritize projects and alleviate workload where possible is crucial to prevent burnout and dissatisfaction. Consider asking for the option to be more judicious about attending meetings and scaling back the frequency of recurring ones. Communicate your available work windows to colleagues and clients, and build in regular times for breaks throughout your workday.

“As a manager, if your team is overwhelmed and risking burning out, consider bringing in contract workers to help support at particularly busy times, help prioritize tasks, and be prepared to step in when needed.” 

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