A four-day work week versus a flexible workplace

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The four-day work week is a current workplace trend meant to embrace work-life balance. There are different perspectives on it and companies are still on the fence. Many organizations are having challenges on how to consider it, but regardless of how companies choose to tackle it, this new approach to work culture requires an open mindset. 

At its heart, a four-day work week is about providing employees with flexibility. Flexibility is needed in all workplaces as lifestyles and work requirements vary from employee to employee. That is why companies should prioritize personalization of workplace practices, to cater to everyone’s needs. But condensing work into four days may actually reduce the ability to have personal flexibility. The same hours are being condensed into four days, requiring employees to be more highly focused and productive than they would if the extra day was in their schedule. This also does not leave much room for those who want to fit in their personal priorities where they see fit, not determined on a strict work week.

That is where challenges and questions arise around if this is even feasible. People are looking for flexible time for personal priorities on a daily basis, which is hard to maintain during the four days. Scattered working hours allows someone to decide how they prioritize their week.

Ultimately, a company needs to focus on measuring both productive and employee engagement, while letting people be in the driver’s seat of how results can be achieved. 

A four-day work week also affects global organizations with people in roles where they depend on communicating across time zones. Removing an entire day of possible interaction would slow down decision-making, collaboration, and communications. Many roles are relationship-based, so it’s not possible for shift work or team coverage to solve this.

Moreover, through a flexible workplace approach, being empowered to manage both work and personal life seamlessly throughout the day has been arguably one of the best evolutions in decades. 

Employee needs must be taken very seriously, and we want to provide the best working experience, through multiple initiatives. Companies need to look at having flexible guidelines to embrace trust and empower decision-making at the individual and team level with regards to when, where and how people work. This encompasses having remote, hybrid and office work, part-time options, and scattered working hours. Teams can also experiment with meeting-free Fridays, and conduct workshops designed to bring managers and teams together to co-create flex working schedules. 

Above all, every work style comes with setting boundaries to respect personal lives and reduce burn out. By experimenting with different work styles, it creates opportunity for personalization, but also requires developing the skill of tuning in and importantly out of work. It is up to you as an organization to assess what will truly cater to the heart of your company, your employees, whether that is a four-day work week or a more flexible approach.

Rebecca Rowley Bio

The Head of Human Resources for SAP Canada, Rebecca Rowley is passionate about creating opportunities and futures for people, finding amazing talent and bringing forward new ideas. She is an experienced senior Human Resources leader with a demonstrated history of working in the technology industry, skilled in Customer Relationship Management (CRM), talent development, Employee Relations, performance management, and more. With this experience, she continues to further her passion by fostering the diverse and inclusive culture at SAP.  

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