While the four-day workweek is a new corporate trend, such arrangements may not be feasible for everyone, particularly deskless employees.
O.C. Tanner, an employee recognition firm, tried a four-day workweek with its 450 factory employees to see whether they could provide them with the same level of flexibility as the company’s office personnel.
While it didn’t exactly work out, Gary Peterson, executive vice president of supply chain and manufacturing at O.C. Tanner, said the firm learned a lot about its business and shown to its employees that they cared about them.
Their example can also indicate how other organizations may experiment with different types of work schedules for all of their employees.
Trying out the four-day workweek
O.C. Tanner tried a four-day workweek with production team members about a decade ago, but it didn’t work, according to Peterson. O.C. Tanner didn’t want deskless workers to feel left out or neglected when they inquired whether it was conceivable for them as well, given that the company’s desked workers enjoyed greater flexibility in work arrangements.
“If I had just told all the people who were asking, ‘Look, we investigated it 10 years ago, it doesn’t work, let it go,’ that just doesn’t fly,” Peterson said. So they looked into it again.
Management began by reviewing the present timetables for its 450 plant workers. They had a day shift that worked eight-hour shifts from Monday to Friday, a night shift that worked nine-hour shifts from Monday to Thursday, and a four-hour shift on Friday. “We like to get our second shift home on Friday nights at 6 pm,” he explained.
Petersen believed that switching to four 10-hour shifts per week — with some employees working Monday through Thursday and others Tuesday through Friday — was their best shot for a four-day workweek.
They ran into a few issues. First and foremost, no one wanted the Tuesday through Friday schedule, but O.C. Tanner required Friday coverage since they transport products five days a week. Second, the day and night shifts were usually 10 minutes apart. “There isn’t enough equipment for me to work another two hours,” he explained. It was also unpopular to ask workers on the night shift to remain an extra hour. Attempting to go to a four-day workweek also had an impact on overtime choices, since employees would be coming in on a fifth day anyhow.
There were also safety issues with having employees work 10-hour days. “It’s a physically demanding job.” “We’re on our feet, working, handling products, and it’s taking a physical toll,” he explained. The organization was well aware that during the ninth hour of a night shift, “we really have to be mindful of safety and ergonomics,” he explained. “If we went another hour, I’d be concerned about everyone’s safety.”
They returned to their previous system after attempting it for two months.
The worth of attempting something fresh
But Peterson does not believe it was a waste of time. Workers appreciated that management listened to their requests and worked hard to figure out alternate work arrangements. When they saw it wasn’t working, for the sake of the firm or their personal safety, they knew their managers had at least listened and tried.
According to Jessica Kriegel, chief scientist of workplace culture at Culture Partners, this sends a clear statement about business culture and that a firm is prepared to listen to employee concerns and try something new. “Innovation is failing quickly.” “If you don’t fail quickly, you’re never innovating, and they’ve obviously done something innovative,” she remarked.
While this is not the best situation for a company like O.C. Tanner, businesses may experiment with alternative types of work arrangements for employees who need to be on-site without having to reinvent the wheel. “One model is the four-day workweek. “It’s arbitrary,” she explained. Nurses, firefighters, and flight attendants currently work schedules in which they are on and off for a set number of days, and they might be employed for other types of vital or in-person employment as needed.
“Look before you leap,” Peterson advises any employer in a similar scenario considering a four-day workweek or another type of work-hour arrangement. Managers should grasp the mechanics of such adjustments, as well as how adjusting when employees work affects company demands. “It’s worth looking at,” he continued, adding in many respects, flexibility is “a new kind of cash.” It’s what the public wants. They want to feel that there is some flexibility.”
While a shorter workweek has advantages, such as greater work-life balance, it can also present substantial obstacles for deskless employees, such as longer working hours, increased workload, scheduling conflicts, lower income, fewer employment options, and so on.
While a four-day workweek might provide advantages such as enhanced work-life balance, it can also present substantial obstacles for deskless professionals. When implementing a shortened workweek, employers must carefully evaluate these issues by striving to create an employee-centric culture in the company and at the same time guaranteeing that all workers, regardless of job type, may benefit from a more balanced and rewarding work life.