More and more colleagues are now working in the office or hybrid, and it’s important to pay attention to their need for flexibility. The last two years have proven that people can work efficiently from anywhere and we have gained a lot in terms of trust in our teams. And it’s worthwhile to continue to show them confidence, finding new solutions that allow them to enjoy flexibility in work. One of these solutions is the 4-day workweek. Find out how you can support your team to adapt to this new way of working and also the results of the companies that have already tested this program!
A group of Romanian parliamentarians submitted to the Senate, at the beginning of March 2022, a low project for the amendment of the Labor Code. According to this project, the working week would be four days, with three days off. Full-time employees would work, in this case, 10 hours.
The Minister of Labor, Marius Budai, says that this option is possible, but a decision must be made after a discussion with specialists.
“Anything is possible, but I think we need a broader analysis, not just a legal project. We have to involve occupational health and safety specialists, including the private sector, because we can’t make a decision, from my point of view, like that, for everyone, starting tomorrow, we will all go to work four days a week “, said Marius Budai, in a TV show.
The Minister of Labor specified that there are countries in Europe that have adopted laws for a 4-day workweek, giving the example of Belgium, which allows the organization of the work schedule four days a week, ten hours a day, without it being mandatory.
An UNEQUAL WORK SCHEDULE EXISTS IN THE LABOR CODE
The 4-day working week is not a novelty in the Romanian labor market. The Labor Code provides for the possibility of unequal work. Article 113 states:
Article 113 [distribution of working time during the week]
(1) The distribution of working time during the week is, as a rule, is 8 hours a day for 5 days, with two days off.
(2) Depending on the specifics of the unit or the work performed, it’s possible to opt for an unequal distribution of working time, respecting the normal duration of working time of 40 hours per week.
In order to have an unequal work schedule, it’s important to include this statement in the employment contract and in the Internal Regulations:
Art. 116. [unequal work schedule]
(1) The concrete way of establishing the unequal work schedule within the 40-hour working week, as well as during the compressed working week will be negotiated through the collective labor contract at the level of the employer or, in his absence, will be provided in the internal regulations.
(2) The unequal work schedule can only work if it is expressly specified in the individual employment contract.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF THE 4-DAY WORK WEEK
Before making a decision about organizing working time in a week, it’s important to know the perception of Romanians about the 4-day working week. According to a survey conducted by a job platform in Romania, 78% of employees are open to working only 4 days a week and they consider this is a very good time to adopt the shorter working week.
Even if there is an opening for the 4-day working week, 41% of Romanians also see its disadvantages, the main one is the higher volume of work in the 4 days, as a result of the extension of working hours. 45% expect that there will be more pressure on them to finish everything faster.
Romanian employees also see the positive side of the 4-day workweek. 70% believe that this will improve their work-life balance, 68% expect to have more free time to prioritize mental and physical health, 29% say it will increase their level of productivity when they are at work, and 25% believe that this will reduce the risk of exhaustion.
HOW TO HELP YOUR TEAM ADAPT TO THE 4-DAY WORKWEEK
1. Clarify what a four-day workweek means and what the company’s goals are for adopting this work schedule
Companies approach the 4-day work week differently. According to a 2019 SHRM survey, 32% of U.S. companies offered a 40-day work week, while 15% offered a 32-hour workweek.
It’s therefore important to make a decision: eliminate one day of the week and pay employees for 40 full hours, even though they will only work 32 hours, or extend the schedule for four days so that the working time is still 40 hours.
“An initial assessment of the benefits, potential disadvantages, impact on operations and the overall cost is critical,” said Jennifer Donnelly, senior vice president for organizational effectiveness practice, in her speech at HR consultancy Segal.
“But don’t try to come up with all the answers,” says Andrew Barnes, author of e 4 DThay Week: How the Flexible Work Revolution Can Increase Productivity, Profitability, and Wellbeing, and Create a Sustainable Future (Piatkus, 2020). Barnes is the founder of the Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand financial services company, that has gone from a five-day workweek to a four-day week in 2018, with the salary remaining the same.
The company has to clarify its objectives, involving employees. They can tell each other what they expect to achieve in a four-day workweek.
“You have to be confident to let your team come up with solutions. This is absolutely essential, “said Andrew Barnes.
Once you have clearly identified your specific goals and objectives, determine how you will measure the effectiveness of your 4-day workweek. What metrics will you monitor?
“What I’m doing is pretty simple,” Barnes said. “I look at revenue, the profitability of the business, my profit per employee, the net promoter score (it measures customer experience and predicts growth in business), and the customer feedback.”
“It’s a high-level vision,” Barnes said, but it’s relevant. “Basically, I offer the same standards of service and enjoy high levels of productivity”, said Barnes.
2. Consider the potential impact on customers
“There are two critical issues that should not be adversely affected by the shift to a four-day workweek,” Barnes said. “Productivity and customer service:” If you can’t keep productivity and customer service high, the 4-day workweek project probably won’t work. That’s why you need to have a discussion about these issues when you want to start the program. ”
Decide with your team whether you will close your business completely on the fifth day of the week or whether you will stagger the 40 hours in the 4 working days. This decision is not an easy task, but you can make it based on the impact and expectations of customers, is the advice of Jennifer Donnelly.
3. Pay attention to the salary
If you choose to work 4 days a week for 10 hours a day, consider that employees will put in the more physical and intellectual effort and will stay above the normal work schedule of 8 hours a day.
The Labor Code mentions in Art. 114. [maximum working time]
(1) The maximum legal working time may not exceed 48 hours per week, including overtime
Article 112 [normal working time]
(1) For full-time employees, the normal working time is 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week.
So keep in mind that in the case of a 4-day work week, people will work more than 8 hours a day. You can apply the provisions of the Labor Code regarding the payment of overtime:
Art. 123. [compensation of additional work by granting a salary increase]
(1) In case the compensation through paid free hours is not possible within the term provided by art. 122 (1) in the following month, the additional work will be paid to the employee by adding an increase to the salary corresponding to its duration.
(2) The increase for additional work, granted under the conditions provided in par. (1), shall be established by negotiation, within the collective labor contract or, as the case may be, of the individual employment contract, and may not be less than 75% of the basic salary.
In addition to setting salaries that are in line with people’s efforts, it is important to define who qualifies for the 4-day work week (because not all activities can be interrupted 3 days a week).
It’s also important to make decisions internally about rest and medical leave in your team, but probably in Romania, a legislative framework will be created if the legal project on the four-day workweek will be adopted and published in the Official Gazette.
It’s also very important to define the conditions under which the four-day working week will not be able to be adopted, such as during peak business periods or according to customer needs.
4. Don’t overlook the importance of communication and training
The news of the transition to a 4-day work week should be communicated by the CEO or a company leader, who should also score the expected results, as well as the methods of support from the company for people to cope with the new work schedule.
“In the case of the 4-day work week, it’s essential to train managers to know how to adapt themselves and help their teams adopt, how to measure performance,” said Donnelly, senior vice president for the organizational effectiveness practice.
5. Test the initiative for success
You may have questions or concerns about the 4-day work week, while your colleagues may be excited about this work schedule. The solution is to be open and start as in the case of a new job, with a probationary period. It’s an opportunity to see how change works. You will be able to evaluate the productivity, and your colleagues will know if they can compress the work into 4 days.
“What we see and what companies around the world see is that people are eliminating downtime and unproductive activities,” Barnes said.
THE FIRST COMPANIES TO TEST THE 4 DAY WORK WEEK
The American companies Wanderlust, Buffer, and Awin, were the first to experience the 4-day workweek. They wanted to reduce stress and promote well-being, especially for parents who are trying to dedicate themselves to work and family.
Being a company that spends time outdoors, The Wanderlust Group thought that the extra day off would give people more opportunities to spend time not only with family and friends but also outdoors, in nature.
Buffer, the company that provides social media tools, has a strong interest in the future of work. It offered people extra time for life and flexibility in their work schedule.
The pandemic has led managers at Awin, a growing affiliate marketing platform, to offer “something back to employees to improve their condition.”
At Wildbit, the American software company, the transition to the 4-day workweek took place in 2017. Its founders, Natalie and Chris Nagele were deeply influenced by Cal Newport’s 2016 book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Our brain can only do concentrated, meaningful, and productive work for about 4 hours a day, the rest of our time is spent on unnecessary distractions and a lot of effort, says Newport.
“We spend most of our days working superficially. We have meetings, we send e-mails, we close tickets, and we talk to each other. What if we all did a really meaningful job, based on more attention and less work? Natalie Nagele, Wildbit (blog post May 2017)
Natalie and Chris decided to test the 4-day work week to see if it was possible to work more efficiently, eliminating distractions.
1. Productivity has either remained the same or improved
The Wanderlust Group got better results than the 5-day work week. During their initial test, they had the most productive six months, so they set the company’s policy for a shorter working week. After a year of working 4 days a week, their income increased by almost 100% and their NPS (Net Promoter Score) remained above 75.
“The four-day workweek gave us magic numbers. We have managed to achieve and exceed our expected results. ” – Meghan Keaney Anderson, The Wanderlust Group
Wildbit’s experience was similar: a clear growth trajectory, despite the fact that they worked fewer hours, even during the pandemic.
2. Happier and more involved employees
It should come as no surprise that the shorter working week has had a positive impact on employees. They had lower levels of stress, a better work-life balance, greater job satisfaction, increased commitment, and more opportunities for personal and professional development.
“A really direct and tangible benefit of the four-day workweek was that I had no more resignations from employees. Their morale has risen. People were able to dedicate time to their passions and then bring that energy and enthusiasm into their work. ” – Meghan Keaney Anderson, The Wanderlust Group
For example, a Wanderlust employee used his extra day off to teach young people how to sail. Being a technology company that encourages people to spend time outdoors, this is exactly what The Wanderlust Group hoped for when it implemented the 4-day workweek.
3. More efficient processes and workflows
To make the 4-day work week a success, find smarter and more efficient ways to work. At Wildbit, this meant minimizing meetings and other distractions so that people could pay close attention to their important work.
“I have not implemented a four-day workweek. We have implemented different ways of working: eliminating meetings, eliminating distractions, and really focusing on deep work. We have to work on purpose. It was a really interesting and continuous journey. ” – Natalie Nagele, Wildbit
4. Attracting and retaining top talent
If the four-day workweek makes people happier and less stressed, it should come as no surprise that it’s great for attracting and retaining top talent. The flexibility and balance between professional and personal life, offered by the shorter working week and the three-day weekend, is a real selling point.
For a small company like The Wanderlust Group, the 4-day work week allowed them to stand out, get more applications, and recruit great candidates who would otherwise have gone elsewhere.
“In the field of IT, there is competition for top talent, which we feel. We are a smaller company, so we don’t have the reputation that larger companies have. The 4-day workweek was a factor in attracting and retaining the people we really wanted. ” – Meghan Keaney Anderson, The Wanderlust Group.
4-DAY WORKWEEK IN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES
The Nordic countries are known for promoting well-being. Iceland is one of the leaders of the four-day working week. In the period 2015-2019, Iceland carried out the largest pilot program in the world with a working week of 35 to 36 hours (reduced from 40 hours), without requesting a proportional reduction in salaries. The test was attended by about 2,500 people.
The pilot project was named success by Icelandic researchers and trade unions who negotiated a reduction in working time. The researchers found that workers’ stress and exhaustion were reduced and that there was an improvement in work-life balance.
In Sweden, in 2015, the four-day full-time working week was tested. Reactions and results were mixed. The proposal was to try six-hour working days instead of eight-hour ones without losing pay, but left-wing parties thought it would be too costly to implement this on a large scale.
Positive results were observed in the orthopedic unit of a university hospital, which had the opportunity to change the shift of 80 nurses and doctors after six hours and hired new staff to compensate for the time. The response from the medical staff was positive, but the experiment received a lot of criticism and was not renewed. However, some companies, such as automaker Toyota, have chosen to keep the 4-hour workweek.
In Belgium, the 4-day-a-week work schedule was adopted nationwide in March 2022, with employees being able to work 10 hours a day and benefit from 3 days off without having their pay reduced. Belgians will be able to decide whether to work four or five days a week, but that doesn’t mean they will work less – they will simply condense their working hours into fewer days.
“The aim is to give people and companies more freedom to organize their working time,” said Alexandru de Croo, Belgium’s prime minister.
The Belgian Prime Minister hopes that the agreement will help make the labor market more flexible and that people will be able to balance family life with work. He added that the new model should create a more dynamic economy.
The UK will start a four-day week-long pilot testing program in June 2022. The program will run for six months and is the largest of its kind. Since January 2022, companies have been recruited to study the impact of the shorter working week on the productivity and well-being of their workers, as well as the impact on the environment.
About 3,000 employees enrolled in the research program at Cambridge, Oxford, and Boston College. According to the legal provisions, employees will be allowed to work up to 9.5 hours a day – from 9:00 to 18:30 and will receive the same salary as for 5 working days. Through a union agreement at work, the working day will be able to have 10 hours.
The decision to move to a 4-day workweek should be made with your team taking into account the specifics of the business, your and preferences. Even if the draft law has not yet been adopted, the Labor Code, through the provisions on the unequal work schedule allows you to test this new work program to see if it works for you and what optimizations you could make. Start with a short survey to see what your colleagues think and, depending on the results, plan the next steps! The people on your team will appreciate that are involved in decisions about their work schedule!
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