The idea of a four-day work week is not new. In fact, the idea has been around for quite some time. Many companies have experimented with this idea and some have even implemented it. However, there is still a lot of debate on whether it can be successful in the modern sales environment.
In theory, the idea makes sense. It allows people to spend more time with their families and do other things they enjoy doing outside of work. That mental health break can give people the boost that they need when they are back in the office. This can be especially beneficial for sales teams who need to work long hours to close deals and meet quotas.
The problem is that when you are selling products or services; you need to put in extra effort during certain times of the year when demand is high. For example, when school begins again after summer break, or during holiday shopping season when stores are packed with customers looking for gifts.
We’ll admit to being a bit one-sided in this discussion. For many of us, a four-day week is not just a nice perk, it’s actually made us measurably more productive. But implementing a four-day work week isn’t as simple as cutting one day off of your operations. There are intricacies to be taken into consideration.
The Case for the Four Day Work Week
It’s no secret that people work longer hours than ever before. And while it’s true that some jobs require more hours than others, the fact remains that many employees are working more than they need to.
In fact, one study found that Americans work an average of 47 hours a week — and nearly 20 percent say they exceed 50 hours per week.
That’s a lot of time spent at work! So why do so many people put in so many hours?
In short, as productivity has increased, expectations have kept pace. That means that we expect employees to accomplish more than they ever have before. Once those expectations are put into place, it’s up to the worker to figure out how to meet them. That often leads to unused vacation days, extra working hours, and eventual burnout.
More often than not, whatever incremental increase in productivity comes from those extra hours gets quickly overshadowed. Exhausted teams are less effective, more likely to succumb to illness, and quicker to make mistakes that need correction. In short, the hero syndrome becomes their downfall.
The four-day work week can help fight back against rising costs, as well. The UK-based Government Equalities Office has done extensive research showing that roughly two million British people are unemployed because of child care responsibilities and concerns. When daycare costs more than someone makes in a day, the answer is difficult, but obvious – choose to stay home.
The four-day work week may not fully solve child care expense concerns, or every disparity, but it allows actionable advantages. It relieves the need to pay for care for one day, while also providing the parent with more home time.
A shorter working week can also help increase productivity. It’s been proven that workers who work longer hours are less productive than those who work fewer hours with more breaks. This is because when we don’t take breaks throughout the day, we become tired and lose focus. When we take breaks, however, we return refreshed and focused, which increases our productivity by around 15%.
Now translate those facts into a shorter work week. By providing your team with more time away from the office, you can expect to see improved productivity and results when they come back. A four-day week isn’t the silver bullet that kills off burnout, but it can go a long way toward helping.
A four-day week is also great for businesses that want to attract top talent. Don’t be afraid to use the four-day week as a selling point to potential hires. In fact, many countries around the world already offer this option as a way of attracting employees from other countries who may be hesitant about moving abroad with their families.
Making the Four-Day Work Week…Work
With such a list of advantages, it’s a wonder that any company ever considers a four-day work week to be less than ideal. But as we said earlier, there are complexities that arise depending on your business. Dealing with those complexities early, and setting expectations around them, is key to the success of a shorter work week.
Pick a Path
A four-day work week comes with some options. Will you let every member of your sales team be off work every Friday? Or should some work Fridays while others work Mondays? Will they keep the same hours on the days that they work, or do you insist on 10-hour days to make up the difference?
The first key to success is to not try to come up with all the answers yourself. Ask your sales team members what they hope to get by moving to a four-day week. Which approach will help them feel like they are benefitting while still keeping the organization’s goals intact?
Will you need to change how you measure output? What metrics will shift, if any? Be sure to document and publicize your expectations, so that your sales team knows up front how they’re expected to perform with this new schedule.
Consider the Customers
Some customers never want to talk on a Monday. Others may only take calls on a Monday. Closing up shop one day per week rarely makes sense for sales teams because of shifting customer demands. But a staggered schedule can likely handle this problem. Consider it a matter of best practices to get customer feedback before deciding.
Customers may not like being told that their salesperson will be unavailable for a day every week, but if they realize this situation ahead of time, they can plan accordingly and be prepared when their needs arise.
Listen to Legalities
There are some important points to keep in mind if you choose to switch your team to a four-day work week. First, what are your state’s laws regarding overtime? While some states follow the federally mandated overtime pay for anything over 40 hours in a week, some others pay overtime for anything over eight hours in a day.
You should also check the initial employment contract. You’re looking for statements regarding how sick days, vacation days, and other paid time off is earned. If your plan is to drop to a 32-hour week, and your team earns their PTO per the number of hours worked, you will need to renegotiate and have them agree to a new employment contract.
While you’re looking at those contracts, it’s also time to think about building in some flexibility. We all know that sales is cyclic. Does your employment offer or contract accommodate peak business periods? It should!
Manage Your Meetings
A recent study shows that the average professional spends more than half of their 40-hour week in meetings. Now think about your own department. How often are you taking people away from their desk for something that could be handled over email? Do your daily 1 on 1s provide benefit to the individuals, or are they just a way to keep you informed?
Meetings take more time than any other aspect of a professional’s job. When you’re already cutting out one day per week, it’s more important than ever to be judicious with their use.
Rather than dedicating time to meetings, try the inverse instead – dedicate time to uninterrupted work. By making sure that your sales team has time where they won’t face any interruptions, you’re helping them meet the goals that you’ve set.
Along the same line as meetings, reconsider how you communicate (and how you expect communication). The “always on” approach is less favorable when you are trying for dedicated work time. Investigate tools that allow for asynchronous communication. In most cases, the tools that you already have will work fine, it’s merely a matter of changing expectations in how you use them.
It’s also important to set expectations that match your goals. Though you may be practicing asynchronous communication, everyone on the team should have the same understanding of when replies are expected. When you have a team that works different days, making sure to avoid bottlenecks is critical. Every person should have at least one other who is up to date on their tasks. That way when someone is gone, they aren’t creating a choke point for other people who are involved in their projects.
If you’ve decided to try a four-day work week, it’s often best to run a trial period first. Working fewer hours is a generally appealing concept, but it’s hard to tell how the shift will impact your productivity until you actually do it.
For those who have tried the four-day week, we’d love your feedback. Did it work for you? What changes were the most important? The comments are your and we’re excited to hear your stories.