Four day week: The role of trust in a reduced working week

Dan Pontefract, an award-winning author, on how to implement a four-day week in your organization

Four day week: The role of trust in a reduced working week

The concept of a four-day work week has been gaining considerable attention post-pandemic, with employees calling for a more flexible approach to work and enhance work-life balance.

Speaking to HRD, Dan Pontefract, an award-winning author, leadership strategist, and speaker, says that this shift towards a reduced working week revolves around trust and cultural support.

“Leaders ought to be setting so that you know our people feel as though that they are trusted, that they belong that they're valued,” he says. “They also need to ensure they have the right strategy – that their culture is a supportive one.”

Reducing meetings, eliminating time wasting

Then, on the self-development side of things, you need to look at how you can build your skills. Does the four day week give employees enough time and space to let that to happen?

“It means that you're trusting your people,” adds Pontefract. “That they have a way in which to integrate their work into their life – that you can find ways for the team member get the work done,  but not in a way that makes them feeling dishevelled and discombobulated from that integration.

When considering the potential challenges of a shorter workweek, Pontefract believes that if implemented correctly, there should be no major concerns. He cites examples of organizations like Perpetual Guardian from New Zealand, which have successfully condensed 40 hours of work into 32 hours, without increasing workdays' length. However, Pontefract does warn against the misconception of merely compressing the same workload into fewer days. 

“You do have to think through those operational processes that’re getting in the way,” he tells HRD. “Where are the redundant meetings that don't need to happen? What’re the 60 minute sessions that we can do in 30 or 45 minutes? Where’s all that excess baggage - things that get in the way of good work? What can we eliminate?”

Asking these questions is a great way to figure out whether or not a four day work week would work for you. For employees, it’s a hugely attractive perk – and for candidates it’s a great lure which, in the current talent shortage, wouldn’t go amiss.

Improved culture, improved retention

According to data from Robert Walters, 89% of professionals want their employer to implement a four day week this year, with 66% adding they’d be willing to give up work socials and relationships with colleagues for a shorter week. One of the main questions for HR in the four day week, aside from implementation and productivity, is culture. Leaders were wary that hybrid working would impact culture – though reports have found that culture has notably improved with the model – and the four day week is sparking similar concerns.

For Pontefract, he believes that culture is what happens when the leader is not in the room to begin with.

“If that means that the culture is one in which the team member, whether they're working from home or remotely and not therefore on the worksite, are valued, are collaborative and proactive, then work flourishes. We need to think about the conditions, the factors, that leaders are creating to allow the person to feel human but also get the work done.”

As for potential cost savings, Pontefract suggests a collaborative approach between organizations. By sharing office spaces or facilities on different days of the week, companies can reduce lease costs and promote a sense of community.

This hybrid work model allows for both remote work and face-to-face interactions, enabling organizations to rethink the purpose of physical workspace and explore innovative ways of sharing resources. 

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