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Hot for the 4-Day Week

Updated: May 18

Taking the Pulse of Canadian HR professionals

Were you there on November 24? I spoke to close to 150 participants, mostly made up of human resources professionals, in a masterclass on the 4-day week at the HRPA Virtual Fall 2022 conference. We covered a ton of material in just 90 minutes and engagement was super high with polling participation rates of 60-75%. Clearly the 4-day week is gaining interest and momentum among Canadian HR professionals.

Key take-aways from the content were that the 4-day week is gaining a lot of popularity even as several pilots are going on around the world for hundreds of companies and many thousands of employees. Governments are supportive and interested in leveraging experiment results to facilitate businesses’ transition, either through direct labour/employment legislation or subsidizing programs to aid in their voluntary transition (e.g. hiring more staff). Many think-tanks and academic research have demonstrated since the 1970s the inverse relationship between long hours and productivity and cognitive capacity, and the potential and actual benefit of shortening the standard work week. Moreover, the research shows that the 4-day week has potential societal benefits, such as reducing the carbon footprint, reducing unemployment, and narrowing the gender inequality gap. However, government and/or broad union action is needed in order to accelerate its uptake large-scale and capitalize on its benefits for everyone.

Although the 4-day week represents many potential benefits at the company and societal level, it is only 1 of many other wellbeing initiatives in the workplace. It is versatile and customizable, but the transition can be challenging. Key best practices are that companies should not try to do it alone, and should take their time with the preparation process. Involving employees to engage their creativity and create accountability will yield the best results, but leaders need to be on board and provide guidance and investment in workflow management and operational efficiencies.

I also learned a lot from you, my audience! Generally speaking, the pulse of Canadian HR professionals is "hot" with respect to the 4-day week. Most of you were at the “just curious” stage, are considering it for wellbeing reasons, but think that your leaders need to see more positive outcomes in terms of customer/client impact as well as team performance before committing. More specifically:

Source: Poll Results from the HRPA Masterclass session, November 24th. Compiled by Sarah Lussier (Rooted Sky Solutions).

  1. You were most keen to learn whether the 4-day week would be feasible in your organization (42%, Poll 1), and around ¼ of you wondered about practical tips to implement it well in your organization (Poll 1). Most of you had not yet implemented or seriously considered implementing the 4-day week and were in the curious camp (81%, Poll 2), but by the end of the session many of you said that the 4-day week could be feasibly implemented in your organization (38%, Poll 6). As for the 42% of you who were still unsure, you have your work cut out for you, mostly around demonstrating to your leaders that this is worthwhile and feasible (38% of you said your leaders would think it too risky, Poll 4). Hopefully the tips I provided around measuring outcomes and starting small can help take you there.

  2. Even though employee wellbeing/mental health is the # 1 reason to implement the 4-day week, followed by employee engagement and retention (48% and 41%, Poll 3), your leading outcome to measure to gauge its success is still business-results-driven: customer/client focus, while team performance and employee wellbeing and happiness follow at 2nd and 3rd (27%, 24%, and 19%, Poll 5). There seems to be a disconnect between what the HR professionals may be wanting, and what they expect the business leaders want.

  3. By the end of the session, 20% of you said that you did not think the 4-day week would be feasible for your organization. Some of the comments and questions from the audience were around the practicality especially around manufacturing and construction companies, where continuous output is required. Reducing the hours of employees would likely require hiring more employees, and some of you expressed concern around the cost-benefit ratio of hiring more staff to make the 4-day week work. Although some construction companies have joined various pilots around the world, the results for those companies are not available yet. In the meantime, we can take examples from other long-hours client-facing companies such as restaurants, which have successfully experimented and reaped benefits. More research results will be forthcoming and hopefully tips and best practices for such industries will become available.

Log in to the HRPA Fall 2022 Conference portal to view the presentation if you missed it (use your personal password provided by HRPA), and if you didn’t participate in the conference but want more results from the 4-day week research, keep checking out my website (showcase page) for a soon-to-be-added copy of the summary report on the 4-day week research and case study.

Thank you to my co-panelist, Valerie Stam, Operations Director at CAWI, for trusting me to measure the impact of the 4-day week on their organization and to share their learnings broadly to guide other organizations to succeed in their implementation of the 4-day week. I am grateful to the HRPA for the opportunity to speak on this topic, and I am thankful to you all, my participants, for your interest, and for your engagement! Keep exploring and experimenting!

Connect with me if you are interested in exploring or measuring wellbeing initiatives for your workplace and follow me on LinkedIn.

Additional resources:

Check out the 4 Day Week Global website to connect with the experts, join a pilot, and learn best practices.

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