Four-Day Work Week a Utopia?


Is the Four-Day Work Week Truly Utopia? There is no question that the world changed in March 2020. The work dynamic we all knew and lived by was thrown on its head, and a new paradigm became a reality. People not only worked from home but worked from the beach. They moved from downtown San Francisco to the mid-west and elsewhere and built lifestyles where they may have worked on a specific time zone schedule, but their reality may be completely different.

So the next question that people have is, do we work for a certain number of hours, or do we work based on productivity? Does the amount of time we put in define our value, or does the output?

More and more, the argument is slanting towards the latter, and this has given increased validity to the “gig economy” and those who wish to work a reduced workweek schedule.

Liz Ryan recently posed the question on Linkedin, “Burnout is a huge topic and concern right now. Would a four-day work week (four work days of eight hours each) help?” The answers were fascinating.

My response garnered ninety-nine likes and thirty-three replies alone.

The gist of my argument (for those who embrace TL/DR) is that creating a four-day workweek without changing systems, processes, and expectations only leads to more stress and anxiety and does nothing to benefit the company or the individual in the long run.

We need to manage expectations. What do we need to get done, when does it need to be done, and why is this a priority? are the questions that need to be answered and understood by all.  

If all we do, is shorten the timeline for people, they will continue to do what they are currently doing. Today, people come in early, stay late, work on weekends, and still miss deadlines because of unrealistic timelines and expectations. Shortening the workweek will only shift the time spent on projects to off-hours, causing more stress, anxiety and resentment.

However, when projects are clearly articulated, with goals, timelines and objectives in mind, and people can push back and say, “with our current capabilities and workload, the expectations are unrealistic,” things can change for the better.

We need to talk with each other. We cannot just say yes to our boss or our clients without understanding what factors are already in play that could cause failure. We need to understand what else people are working on, their current workload, and what other projects are considered a priority. If we do not do this, then we are not project managing and enabling people to work effectively; we are just piling on work and creating points of failure in the near and long term.

So, as organisations, we need to think differently. We need to communicate effectively in an ongoing fashion. We need to understand not only what is going on today but what is coming and be able to plan for it.

If sales are working on a large project, procurement, operations, and finance, need to know about it long before it becomes a reality. This allows teams to build the slack they need to prepare for it and manage the project effectively. 

Unless we are willing to think and act differently, whether we have a five, four, three, or two-day workweek is irrelevant. People will continue to be stressed, will not work to their optimum capabilities and will eventually look for another place to utilise their talents where they do not feel like they are constantly under siege.