I’ve noticed in the last few years how Friday mornings on the roads and trains appear to be much quieter than the rest of the week. Another observation is that the rush hour traffic on a Friday seems to build up from lunchtime, a lot earlier than the rest of the week. What does this mean?
Similarly, I often find it’s more difficult to get hold of people on a Friday morning as increasingly I’m coming across individuals who end their working week on a Thursday. This leads me to believe that more and more people are either working from home on a Friday or fitting more into the hours they’re at work to enable them to work a 4.5 or even 4 day week. I guess this enables them to get away to enjoy some much-needed leisure time, hence the earlier rush hour. Will we eventually see a much wider culture of 4-day weeks within entire companies or industries. After all, it’s not that long ago that the working week was 6 days long. It was only in the 1920s that Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company, standardized the 5-day, 40-hour working week without reducing employees’ pay.
While here at CBS we are not on a 4-day week, I am sympathetic to more flexible working practices. So I thought I would start a conversation about this approach, share my thoughts, and invite you to share yours.
A More Focused 4-Day Week?
I’ve read a number of articles recently about a 4-day week. It is proven to boost productivity and offers employees a greater work-life balance. But the logistics of implementing flexible working like this seems like quite a challenge for most companies.
As a company director, I do have the luxury of flexibility in my working habits. Fortunately, I have a fantastic team here at CBS Office Interiors who look after affairs in my absence. However, although a long weekend typically involves a Friday off work, I’m not sure it’s something I would want to commit to on a weekly basis. Those 4 days preceding a long weekend certainly focuses the mind. I’m more aware that I need to maximise the time I’m at work so that I don’t leave unfinished business. If you’re going to have a 3-day weekend (sounds good, doesn’t it?), you can’t expect others to pick up the slack when you don’t come in on Friday.
I’m also very conscious that clients may want to get hold of me on a day off. Generally, I’m able to manage expectations so that any client contact is completed ahead of the Friday. But if this was a weekly occurrence, I’m not sure how feasible it would be. However, I do take phone calls and respond to emails if necessary on a Friday if I’m having a long weekend, but would my staff do the same and could I really expect them to? I think that this is an inherent issue with a 4-day week – clients and suppliers are not necessarily on the same schedule.
This leads to another challenge for business owners: do you have sufficient staff to cover for those on a 4-day week? With a relatively small team, this may not provide enough cover especially within individual departments. The nature of our business, design and build, means that projects often run 5 or more days a week, which makes flexible working for these staff members harder to manage.
I’m all for flexible working if it works for both employer and employee and, as I mentioned in my previous blog, I’m passionate about work life balance. I’m happy to have staff working different hours or shorter weeks at times, but it can only work if it doesn’t impact on other employees’ work and the business overall.
So are you managing to run your company on a 4-day week? If so, I would be really interested to hear about your experience.