Should I Switch My Staff to a 4-Day Workweek?

December 9, 2020 | 479 views

Should I Switch My Staff to a 4-Day Workweek?
Should I Switch My Staff to a 4-Day Workweek?

A “traditional” workweek means five days a week, 8 hours a day, for a total of 40 hours. And for some organizations, this works just fine. Yet, have you thought it would be great to have a 3-day weekend every weekend? Instead of scheduling 40 hours over five days, you or some of your staff could work four 10-hour days.

You might choose the same day off for everyone, but if your business is open for multiple shifts and more than five days each week, you could choose to have some people working 5/40 and others working 4/40. It really depends on what you need to run your business smoothly.

Your business might be one that can easily allow for this type of schedule for some or all employees. But before you jump headlong into a 4/40 work schedule, consider the organizational impact and query your employees.

Administrative Issues to Consider

Payroll issues, vacations, production levels, and intra-office communication might be adversely affected by switching to a four-day workweek.

Salaried exempt employees are paid no matter which hours they work. This group of personnel might appreciate the option of having a shorter workweek. Theoretically, their responsibilities don’t change; as long as the work performed meets your expectations, it could be a good option that provides these employees the opportunity to have three days off per week. And it costs you the same amount in wages.

Non-exempt employees are a bit different when it comes to payroll. When you pay them for ten hours each day they work, it comes with the risk of costly overtime. In some states, overtime is due after 40 hours worked. In other locations, overtime starts after the 8th hour on any given day, even if the employee only works part-time. Changing to a 4/40 schedule would be more costly in some locales if that employee now receives 32 hours of regular pay and 8 hours of overtime every week.

Paid vacations are also a potential concern. As with any policy, your organization’s employee handbook must be very clear about the “hours” of vacation earned, not the days. Using hours as the measure avoids the likely confusion about how much vacation pay totals. If a typical day is 10 hours and you grant 5 dyas of vacation, that can easily be misconstrued as 50 hours of pay (10 of which would be overtime). Be sure to think this through before implementing changes in scheduling.

It also comes with other challenges. Group meetings may demand that an employee come in on what would normally be a day off for him. And if they must come in, it must be compensated time if they are hourly employees. That makes communication a potential issue among work colleagues, especially if someone cannot attend a meeting.

As far as productivity is concerned, longer days might be a hindrance. Physically (or mentally) demanding work might not be sustainable for ten hours. Even with appropriate breaks, productivity and effective work levels could decrease with longer shifts, which would not bode well for your business.

Pros and Cons for Employees

A 4/40 option has its upsides. A 4-day workweek clearly offers most employees an opportunity for more personal time and relaxation coupled with less commute time. When staff is rested and prefer this type of schedule, their satisfaction is higher—that always bodes well for the employer. They remain more engaged and will hesitate to change to a traditional job elsewhere.

For some employees, the option of a 4-day workweek could be problematic. It may not match up well with family obligations or daycare hours. They may feel more tired from longer days and prefer to return to traditional hours which disrupts your plan. 

If you see benefits to a 4-day workweek, pitch the idea to employees, consider the administrative hurdles, and give it a trial run. Only then will you know if switching to a four-day workweek is the right scheduling option for you.

Author Profile Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. For many years, Atlas Business Solutions has been named one of Software Magazine’s Top 500 Software Companies.

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