Does a Shorter Workweek Actually Work?

The pandemic has sparked a global conversation about whether people who’ve been working from home should be free to choose their preferred work location. It’s a natural question for employers to ask as they prepare for the future of work. Now, even some ardent return-to-office fans are starting to rethink their stance. 

For example, late last year, the world watched as Twitter CEO Elon Musk issued a strict remote work ban. He soon softened his position, but it wasn’t enough to lure back many disaffected employees. Musk is among a growing list of leaders who are learning that today’s workforce prefers flexibility and wellbeing over “long hours at high intensity.”

The remote work debate continues. But this focus on where we work overshadows a more central argument about how much we should be working. Specifically, the ability to choose a shorter workday or workweek can help employees meet their individual needs. At the same time, reduced hours can help employers, because people are more engaged and productive when they are working, according to a report in The Atlantic.


The Downside of a Shorter Workweek


For most U.S. employers, reducing the standard 40-hour workweek would be a drastic change. This kind of shift in the status quo will no doubt draw resistance.

Opponents of a shorter workweek say this approach will be costlier and riskier to manage. They also note that, because some people won’t be able to participate, workforce inequality will increase.

Certainly, ineffective implementation could lead to poor employee morale and customer satisfaction. In fact, it could backfire if employees are expected to squeeze extra hours into a 4-day workweek. If managers don’t commit to a revised work structure, it will likely erode employee experience and customer experience, as well.

Why These Criticisms Don’t Stand

Interestingly, many of these 4-day workweek criticisms are similar to arguments against remote work. Clearly, every job cannot be conducted from home. A firefighter or police officer, for example, can’t fight fires or crime remotely. Microsoft Teams and Zoom simply aren’t designed to support these front-line professions.

Regardless, many of these workers can benefit from a shorter work schedule. And it can improve their performance when they are on the clock. For instance, a 4-day workweek trial study in New Zealand found that employees sustained their productivity, even though they experienced up to 45% less stress.

Less time spent working means more time spent with loved ones. In addition, a shortened workweek can help close the gender pay gap. For instance, in a U.K. survey, 2 million unemployed people said childcare responsibilities were the reason they remained unemployed. And 89% of these respondents are women.


Discomfort is a reflection of leaders gripping the bat too tightly. It’s a control issue. Many prefer uniformity and the status quo. It’s similar to the push-back we’re seeing with the shift to permanent hybrid work schedules.

Still, engagement studies continue to show year after year that work cultures are broken. Employers can’t continue doing the same things and expect different results. In the post-pandemic economy, we must reevaluate the classic 5-day workweek, as well as the standard 40-hour, full-time work schedule.


Reimagining the Workweek


Between the turbulent stock market and the Great Resignation in recent years, every company is facing significant challenges. Employees often share their feedback about serious work issues as they abandon ship, but for many organizations, the meter still isn’t moving in the right direction. The underlying problem is that we’re stuck in old ways of thinking.


Workers interviewed about why they left their companies often cited the lack of work-life balance as a massive contributing factor. Burnout became an overwhelming issue as companies shifted to work-from-home models. That’s not too surprising. Instead of leaving problems at the office, many people carried those problems wherever they were, at all hours of the day and night. For them, the work-from-home dream actually became more of a nightmare.

But employers have learned how to alleviate some of the stress by giving people more control over their work schedule. In fact, one recent study found that 94% of employees feel a sense of wellbeing when they know their employer cares about them. The option to choose a flexible schedule can accomplish that.

What’s the ROI?

The tangible benefits of a shorter workweek aren’t always obvious, but they deserve attention. In addition to decreased overhead and utility costs, a 4-day workweek means fewer sick days.

You can also realize financial gains by increasing employee retention. Say someone wants to leave your company to find a better work-life balance. You could offer that employee a reduced work schedule at the same salary, knowing they’ll likely remain onboard longer. Here’s why:

It costs an average of $4,000 to hire a new employee, and that person may need a year or longer to learn the job well enough to exceed expectations. The estimated cost of replacing an employee is about 9 months of their salary. And those costs add up fast when you have a revolving door of employees.

You might also want to consider several high-profile 4-day workweek business cases:

  • Perpetual Guardian saw an increase in employee commitment and empowerment without losing productivity or customers.
  • Microsoft Japan printed 59% fewer pages and used 23% less electricity during the program.
  • Unilever saw a roughly 34% decrease in absenteeism and stress levels.


3 Ways to Succeed With a Shorter Workweek


Getting started isn’t too complicated. In fact, our firm has worked with multiple companies that have shifted to a 4-day workweek. In one case, a manufacturing client in a rural community focused on its pool of working parents. This was a win/win because the adjusted schedule works for both the company and parents who want to stay involved with their kids’ schooling and extra-curricular activities.

As you develop and implement your game plan, be sure to include these elements:


1. Involve Your Team

Although the C-suite traditionally makes key business decisions, every employee has a valuable perspective. Some may prefer a 5-day workweek, while others might opt for a shorter schedule. Before you can implement a functional plan, you need to understand your employees’ wants and needs. They deserve a voice because ultimately, they need to make it work.


2. Focus on Outcomes

Your employees are central to this process, but your business and your customers matter, too. When assessing any job schedule, consider the outcomes you want to see instead of simply tracking hours. Focus on metrics like production, quality, or customer experience.


At the end of the day, shifting to shorter schedules can optimize resources and yield long-term savings. In the U.K. more than 50% of business leaders reported cost savings after shifting from a 5-day work schedule to a 4-day workweek. It shouldn’t matter if your team works 20 or 40 hours a week, as long as the job is done right.


3. Stay Open to Continuous Improvement

Forecasts are built on historical performance, so change can be uncomfortable at first. But once you shorten the workweek, you should see measurable improvement in team satisfaction, performance, and business results.


Don’t forget the importance of training. Everyone will need time to get used to new employee schedules, new work shifts, and new ways of managing staff. As long as communication remains open, your organization can successfully move through this culture shift.

Closing Notes

A shortened workweek doesn’t mean your team will accomplish less. In fact, flexibility is the cure for many problems companies are facing in this post-pandemic era.

Employee experience is a human experience. No matter when or where people work, it’s important to find a reasonable balance between work and life. If you redesign your work schedules now, employees will appreciate this change. And over time, you can expect to see even more benefits from your efforts.

Creating Employee Empowerment by Saying Yes

You don’t need a degree in psychology to know that most people enjoy getting what they want. But there’s also definitely something to the act of giving people what they want too.

For a small such a word, “yes” packs quite a punch—especially when it’s delivered by an employer to an employee. Previously, I’ve discussed the virtues of saying “no” and not feeling bad about it when it relates to managing your staff’s workload. On the other hand, if granting more employee requests translates to better results in the long run, then I’m all for it.

Just like its negative counterpart, saying “yes” also requires careful consideration, not just for the individual doing the asking, but for the whole team and the precedence your answer might set. 

Put Employees First

Here’s a news flash: Employees who feel valued are happier and more productive. And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about the positive effects this will have on your bottom line. So, let’s talk about how employers and HR staffs can help create a happier and more productive workplace.

Before answering yea or nay to an employee request, here are three important questions employers and HR staff should ask first:

  1. Will it have a negative impact on the work that needs to be done? This is the primary consideration any time an employee has a special request: What effect will saying yes have on conducting company business? That’s why it’s important to understand completely what the employee is requesting and how they see it driving positive results.

For example, if a team member asks for extended lunch breaks two days a week to attend a yoga class, be clear on what’s expected of him to account for the lost hours. Either he’ll need to stays late or come in early to make up the time. In this case, it’s a win-win for both parties, productivity will remain the same or perhaps even increase thanks to your employee’s increased sense of well-being.

  1. Is it a long-term or short-term change? Is your employee asking to work remotely for the day so she can be home for a furniture delivery? Or is she asking to clock in virtually on a more regular basis? It’s likely much easier to grant a request, and do it quickly, when it is a one-time event. However, if the question involves trusting your employees to take their work outside of the office on a regular basis, then it makes sense to take some additional time to consider the consequences of your answer.
  2. Who will it affect? In addition to identifying the short-term versus long-term effects of the request, a supervisor should also give equal consideration to requests that benefit individuals versus entire teams. For example, as an empathetic employer, those requests involving family emergencies can be granted quickly without much additional thought.

Still, even nice bosses have to take into account how saying “yes” will affect the rest of the staff. Will they want the same treatment? Will they resent you if they don’t get it? While you don’t want to rewrite the entire HR manual every time an employee asks for something, it is important to consider how your answers will influence your staff in the future.

Maintaining a Positive Office Culture

As you discover more opportunities to say “yes,” it’s important to follow up on requests you do grant. If the results of saying yes were positive, then perhaps it’s time to make saying “yes” a staple of office protocol, at least on a temporary basis.

For example, if flexible workweeks during the summer result in higher productivity, consider offering flextime more frequently throughout the rest of the year. Or if the occasional “Casual Friday” results in a morale boost, consider offering the perk on a more regular schedule. Shakespeare might have said that clothes make the man, but it’s the people who make your company productive.

“Yes” is a small word, but it can produce big results. What will it do for your bottom line?


Photo Credit: -Dons Flickr via Compfight cc

#WorkTrends Recap: Meaningful Communication’s Impact on Happiness and Morale

Meaningful communication has a dramatic impact on happiness and morale in all facets of life.

On this week’s #WorkTrends podcast and Twitter chat, our guest Mike Lindstrom discussed some powerful communication tips and tools to help you better understand the impact of your words on others.

We covered why engaging people around you on a deeper level actually triggers happiness in the brain and creates a strong rapport.

Here are a few key tips Mike shared:

  • There’s a difference between hearing someone and listening to someone
  • Listening to someone is being present
  • Put down the phone and technology to be truly engaged
  • Ask people about their “story” and don’t be afraid to go deep in conversations

Missed the show? You can listen to the #WorkTrends podcast on our BlogTalk Radio channel here:

You can also check out the highlights of the conversation from our Storify here:

Didn’t make it to this week’s #WorkTrends show? Don’t worry, you can tune in and participate in the podcast and chat with us every Wednesday from 1-2pm ET (10-11am PT). Next week, on Sept 7, host Meghan M. Biro will be joined by Patrick Morin to discuss clashing cultures.

The TalentCulture #WorkTrends conversation continues every day across several social media channels. Stay up-to-date by following the #WorkTrends Twitter stream; pop into our LinkedIn group to interact with other members; or check out our Google+ community. Engage with us any time on our social networks, or stay current with trending World of Work topics on our website or through our weekly email newsletter.

Photo Credit: newskyrim via Compfight cc

#WorkTrends Preview: Meaningful Communication’s Impact on Happiness and Morale

Meaningful communication has a dramatic impact on happiness and morale in all facets of life. Join us for this #WorkTrends podcast and Twitter chat as our guest Mike Lindstrom discusses some powerful communication tips and tools to help you better understand the impact of your words on others.

We will also cover why engaging people around you on a deeper level actually triggers happiness in the brain and creates a strong rapport.

Get out of your own way and join us to discuss this very important topic with Host Meghan M. Biro and Guest Mike Lindstrom on 8/31 at 1pm ET.

Meaningful Communication’s Impact on Happiness and Morale

#WorkTrends Logo Design

Tune in to our LIVE online podcast Wednesday, Aug 31 — 1 pm ET / 10 am PT

Join TalentCulture #WorkTrends Host Meghan M. Biro and guest Mike Lindstrom as they discuss why meaningful communication matters.

#WorkTrends on Twitter — Wednesday, Aug 31 — 1:30 pm ET / 10:30 am PT

Immediately following the podcast, the team invites the TalentCulture community over to the #WorkTrends Twitter stream to continue the discussion. We encourage everyone with a Twitter account to participate as we gather for a live chat, focused on these related questions:

Q1. Why does meaningful communication matter in business? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Q2. What simple techniques help spark engaging conversations? #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Q3. How does meaningful communication help people succeed?  #WorkTrends (Tweet this question)

Don’t want to wait until next Wednesday to join the conversation? You don’t have to. We invite you to check out the #WorkTrends Twitter feed, our TalentCulture World of Work Community LinkedIn group, and in our TalentCulture G+ community. Share your questions, ideas and opinions with our awesome community any time. See you there!

Join Our Social Community & Stay Up-to-Date!


Photo Credit: fugenx_technology via Compfight cc

Bullying In The Workplace – Facing Big Bad Bosses

The amount of information you can find on bully boss behavior is staggering. There are thousands of internet links on the subject, not to mention books, support groups, organizations, and legal funds dedicated to this specific form of bad boss behavior.

Bullying in the workplace is such a common problem that according to a 2007 Zogby poll published by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 37% of U.S. workers have been bullied on the job. Unsurprisingly, bosses represent a staggering 72% of the offenders. What’s worse – women are more likely to be targets than men, but anyone in a subordinate position is at risk.

Coaching others through the experience of bully boss behavior is never easy. Human Resources departments, legally, have to follow certain rules of engagement whenever someone is accused of misconduct regardless of the form the harassment takes. This lack of an outlet, coupled with fear of job loss, keep many stories under wraps. After all, it takes a lot of courage to come forward and admit your boss is acting in a threatening manner.

Isn’t This Illegal?

Only 1 in 5 instances of workplace bullying actually rise to the level of illegal discrimination or harassment. Even in those cases where employment laws are broken, workers rarely complain and virtually never sue. Workplace bullying laws have seen success in some countries, but in the U.S. adoption is limited.  And is this really the answer? How do you regulate the parameters that define bullying behavior? It’s a bit more elusive than sexual harassment and cannot be defined by the same straightforward criteria. Whereas a sexual advance can be clear, no two people may agree on what constitutes bully behavior, or at least what the pattern looks like. For one person a boss can be considered demanding, and for another, the boss is a bully.

The bottom line is that employees have to develop a plan around how to address their work environment. They have to decide what outcomes they want and devise a strategy to get there. Withdrawing or doing nothing only perpetuates the problems so action is essential.

What can you do (in the moment) when dealing with a big bad boss?

Be prepared to vary these tactics depending on the situation you’re in. Workplace relationships are like any other – there’s a level of trial and error until you find a process that works. People often get so wound up in the emotional aspects of what’s not working, how it isn’t fair, etc that the victim mentality sets in, and you give all of your personal power away to your boss.

Focus On The Conversation At Hand

Don’t cower when you bully boss comes knocking. Don’t be intimidated by the demanding behavior or tone, just cut to the chase. What does he or she need, and ask questions related to that. It doesn’t matter how your boss is acting, its what is needed to get the job done that counts. You want to train yourself to toss aside the verbal in-your-face posturing and get to the matter at hand. It keeps you focused, and without a victim reaction, your boss will be more defused and switch behavioral gears.

Take Notes

In the moment, it will look like your taking notes on a work task anyway. You may or may not necessarily use your notes with HR, but having your own document trail that includes date, time, and summary of the incident. Look for patterns – is your boss more of bully around certain time periods, people, or events. Think of it like an experiment. You’re studying the behavior in order to finds ways to counteract it. It will make you more astute and focus on moving forward.

Have The Last Word

After your boss is done talking, clarify what you are going to do. Provide a quick summary of actions and emphasize when you’ll deliver. Establishing equal footing with a bully boss requires confidence in your contribution to the business needs not your boss’s needs. Showing that you are ready and capable to deliver what’s expected regardless of your boss’s behavior or demands is critical to developing a long term solution that can transform the relationship.

These tactics represent a small piece of an overall strategic plan. The severity of the bullying varies and only you can determine how much you can take. You may not get as far as suggesting a policy banning bullying in your workplace, but taking control of the communication with your bullying boss is is the first step in establishing better communication.

Image Credit:

5 Different Ways To Truly Support Your Workplace

Inner workplace support is an important characteristic that impacts the positive nature of your company culture. Once your workforce is given proper access to support, higher productivity flourishes naturally.

Support is something all humans want, need and crave. Support comes in many forms and can be given in words or actions. Workers spend more time at their workplace with their co-workers than anywhere else in a work week, which means the workplace is where many employees look for support on a daily basis. Employers can support workers in many ways, the most direct being financially as they provide the livelihood that allows an employee to provide for their life necessities.

However, there are many other ways that an employer can support employees at every level throughout the organization. Some of the major areas where employers can demonstrate support are:


One of the most important elements for a successful workplace is trust. Companies who have employees that trust them are found to have a more engaged workforce and higher productivity rates. Those organizations that have lost their employee’s trust are not as successful as their counterparts. Some of the main factors that determine trust levels are the availability of open communication, lack of accountability, and management abuses. If you find any of these being an issue within your organization make it a point to work with those who are willing to discuss trust and openness.


Just like trust, communication is key to developing positive long lasting employee morale. Employers need to know what drives each employee and their individual performance. Implementing a blanketed approach towards company morale does not work for all employees, as we know, no two employees are the same. What keeps your employees motivated, flourishing and willing to display their creativity in the workplace? Knowing these answers will help in developing an engaged workforce motivate to their best with a deeper sense of loyalty for the organization.


The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), defines well-being as; “creating an environment to promote a state of contentment which allows an employee to flourish and achieve their full potential for the benefit of themselves and their organization”. The CIPD believes, “employee well-being at work initiatives need to balance the needs of the employee with those of the organization.” Fortunately this does not have to be a costly endeavor and can include items such as providing 15 minute breaks instead of 10 minutes, small incentive programs or providing a comfortable environment for employees to take their breaks. There are many things an employer can do to demonstrate to employees they are concerned for their well-being.

Pride in the Workplace

Vince Lombardi said, “The pride of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” Satisfied employees lead to low turnover which can also lead to better customer retention. Being proud of where one works and appreciation of work done can inspire individuals and teams to achieve more. The renewed pride allows the networks within the office to have better communication and build upon strengths that exist. It’s important for employees to feel proud about the company they work for and the work they do, and it’s crucial for business owners and managers to realize the development of this pride begins with them.


Two major benefits of positive workplace connections are increased productivity and low turnover. It is important to develop a work environment that fosters the building of these connections. Business owners and management should be pro-active in encouraging and providing the opportunity for these connections to be made in the workplace.

Does your business have tried and tested methods to successful support methods? An organization with a strong support system can only benefit from an efficient and well-balanced team of employees. There’s no better time than today to start creating a company culture with lasting impressions.

(About the Author: Michele O’Donnell joined the team in January 2007 and currently leads MMC’s elite team of HR Consultants. Ms. O’Donnell has been involved in the Human Resources industry for more than 14 years, bringing vast training and management experience to the MMC leadership ranks. Her experience spans the broad scope of labor law, regulatory compliance and HR Best Practices, drawn from her rich experience as Director of HR for several firms throughout her career. She currently works to ensure that MMC’s consultants forge long lasting relationships with our clients, fostered in exceptional service and unsurpassed HR expertise. Ms. O’Donnell earned her baccalaureate degree in Business Administration from Auburn University before receiving her Masters degree in Human Resource Management from Troy State University.)

To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…

TalentCulture World of Work was created for HR professionals, leadership executives, and the global workforce. Our community delves into subjects like HR technologyleadershipemployee engagement, and corporate culture everyday. To get more World of Work goodness, please sign up for our newsletter, listen to our #TChat Radio Channel or sign up for our RSS feed.

Do you have great content you want to share with us? Become a TalentCulture contributor!