Is it time to consider a 4-day work week? Alex Soojung-Kim Pang answers all
What would you say if we told you there’s a way to work less without sacrificing productivity and profitability?
Silicon Valley-based futurist and consultant Alex Soojung-Kim Pang joined us in a DBA Friday webinar to explain the science behind a shorter week, and how redesigning the working week could revolutionise the way your company gets things done. The session exploring a four-day working week brought up many burning questions amongst our members. Alex joined us again last week for a quick-fire Twitter Q&A to answer them.
We kicked off with a popular question amongst attendees, “In a service business what happens when the client calls on their 5th day?”
Frances Jackson, CEO & Client Director from OPX studio was keen to hear from Alex’s first-hand experience with companies who had implemented this strategy, “is there a level of fear from employees concerning change? And how do you counter that?”
Alex explained, “Not ‘fear’ so much as a lot of questions— about how it’s going to work, how I can do the job in 4 days if I already struggle to do it in 5, are we going to 4 days because business is slowing down?
The positive version of this is, people who like their work and want to be good at it will want to understand how they can continue to do so under the new system (which is a question they’d have about any new arrangement).”
“You mentioned keeping salaries the same. However, if there are already people working 4 days a week & you’re looking to bring the whole team this way, how do you plan to adjust/align salaries for those already on reduced hours with a pro-rata salary?” asked Camilla James, Client Services Director, Instinctif Partners
Another webinar attendee asked “What are your thoughts on employers considering moving to a 4-day week, with reduced pay, due to reduced workload as a result of Covid? It’s being discussed as an alternative to redundancy in our business.”
Alex told us, “for a long time, the 4-day week appeared during recessions, when companies were in trouble, when there was too much inventory, etc. It can be a quick way to cut costs, but it shouldn’t become the new normal.
But I know one company that cut hours and salaries at the start of the lockdown, and found that doing the work of going remote made them much more productive, even with the stresses of the pandemic. When things picked up, decided to restore wages but not increase hours!”
“The 4-day work week may create a new challenge and opportunity in the competitive landscape for agencies who operate on a day-rate or hourly fee model. Moving to a project-based fee would help, do you have any other suggestions?” asked Seb Wetherall, Independent Innovation Consultant
“This is an excellent point. Virtually every company I’ve studied moves from hourly to project-based billing, because 1) hourly billing creates so much cultural pressure to do long hours, and 2) it’s a tough sell to essentially tell clients, “we’re charging you 25% more now.”
Even if you’re doing the same work for the same final price, clients can feel like they’re being charged “more.” So in addition to the other benefits of project-based billing, it paves the way for rethinking how you spend your time”, says Alex.
“Is it just human nature to fill the time we have and quite often inefficiently?” asked David Beare, Executive Creative Director, Dragon Rouge
Amongst the challenges and benefits to moving to a shorter week, Alex pointed out that the companies who have adopted 4-day weeks successfully enjoyed improvements to recruitment and retention, a boost in efficiency, enhanced work-life balance, and the space to become more creative and sustainable enterprises.