4-Day Workweeks Could Boost Productivity
Workers say it takes less than five hours a day to do their jobs, working straight through with no interruptions. That, according to a recent survey by The Workforce Institute at Kronos and Future Workplace, offers some provoking evidence that switching to a four-day work week may prove beneficial for some businesses across the country.
The traditional five-day, 40-hour workweek has been the standard for businesses since its inception by Henry Ford in 1926. But today’s workers are vying for more flexible schedules. That’s prompting some companies to change to a four-day workweek.
This past August, Microsoft Japan experimented with the four-day workweek, giving all its employees Fridays off. The results were impressive, with roughly a 40 percent increase in productivity.
However, completely closing up shop one day a week isn’t something most auto recyclers can manage.
"I think that companies who are exploring these options need to be very careful because it's not a 'one-size-fits-all.' This is a 'one-size-fits-most' and it's not meant for every industry," said J. Gerald Suarez, professor of the practice in systems thinking and design at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.
While few recyclers have been quick to adopt a four-day workweek, other businesses in the automotive industry have implemented the new schedule with positive results.
According to an article in Automotive News, Jones Junction Toyota in Bel Air, Md., has had success with a staggered four-day workweek for its staff. The schedule keeps the company’s bays and technicians working at maximum efficiency without the need to build more bays.
Being open just four days a week is not feasible for most recyclers. However, with enough employees, yards that stagger staff schedules may be able to add extended hours or even extra days to their current operation.
For businesses that have trouble hiring staff, a flexible schedule may be a draw for potential workers, too. However, adding more team members to try to cover additional shifts may not be financially feasible for all businesses. And for team members with young children, it might be difficult to find child care for extended hours.
There are takeaways from the Microsoft experiment and others that salvage yard owners should pay attention to, though.
Greater productivity and efficiency. Numerous studies have been conducted showing how much time is wasted at work. Condensing work hours may give a boost in productivity.
Better work / life balance for staffers. Because they have an extra day off, employees may use fewer vacation or personal hours for errands and appointments. "For the individual, I think you have a greater space for spending time with your family and decompressing and disconnecting from work. It gives you the room to take a microvacation – and that's a real benefit," said Suarez.
Increased job satisfaction. Half of respondents in a survey from automotive consulting firm Carlisle & Co. said they would be more likely to stay in their current position if it offered a four-day, 40-hour workweek schedule.
Suarez offered some tips for businesses to follow if they’re thinking of implementing a four-day workweek.
1. Don't imitate. Each company is unique, so customize your plan to make sure it aligns with your company's mission, values and objectives. Some companies prefer four 10-hour days while others cut the number of days to four, keeping each an eight-hour day.
2. Test drive. There's no need to make it a companywide mandate right off the bat. Try it out within different areas of the company to get a sense of its effectiveness.
3. Streamline processes. Establish efficient operations to create conditions for people to work fewer hours and help employees compensate for having an extra day off.
4. Spread the word. Communicate the decision externally and internally. Tell customers how the change might impact them and explain the rationale and financial benefits to staff.
5. Lead by example. Make sure managers and supervisors support the change.
Of course, a successful four-day workweek doesn't just happen, Suarez said. It requires that companies promote operational readiness, streamlined processes, the elimination of waste and redundancies, and efficient workflows.