Employer Insights

Four-Day Work Weeks: Why More Companies Are Making Them Policy

Posted by Andrej
min read

A generation or so ago, success or the lack thereof was thought to be a direct result of how hard or how not-so-hard you worked. You might be asking yourself, “How does this lead to the topic of four-day work weeks?”

The answer is simple: There is no simple answer.

These sort of things take generations to evolve. However, the author feels it’s necessary to cover a little background so that the reader has a better understanding overall.

A Fair Day’s Wage for a Fair Day’s Work: No One Is Buying That Any More

The old school of thought “A fair day's wage for a fair day's work” from the labour movement, trade unions and other workers' groups of the late 19th century has no resonance among Millennials or those from Generation X (those between the ages of 40 and 55, respectively).

It's safe to say that Gen X is primarily responsible for setting the stage for this new mindset since they were the ones who first demanded a healthy balance between work and family.

After all, this is the generation that grew up watching their workaholic parents become burned out and psychologically burdened by the stresses brought on by the American Federation of Labor's traditional labor movement motto.

In 1881, Friedrich Engels, a German philosopher, social scientist, journalist, businessman, and, believe it or not, Communist supporter, was one of the few staunchly opposed to the labor movement’s ideology.

Engels felt that the "rich Capitalists" had accumulated wealth through exploiting the lower to middle-class workers, and that "As innovation continually replaces workers with machines [...] workers come to form an industrial reserve army."

 

Five Generations Comprise Today’s Workforce: Here Are Some Challenges Leaders Face

According to John Rampton, entrepreneur, investor, and contributing author for Inc., five generations are working alongside each other in today's workforce.

"This is the first time that in modern history that there are five generations working side-by-side," writes Rampton. Below is a concise rundown of these five generations and how they affect the workforce environment.

  • Traditionalists

If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of this generation before, it’s because they were born between 1928 and 1945. And though they were already college age when most of our grandparents were still learning their ABCs, they make up three percent of today’s workforce. The Traditionalist Generation had little to no understanding of child labor laws, employee abuse, women’s rights, or various other kinds of rights we take for granted today.

And, to be honest, most of them feel anyone born after 1960 is ‘soft’.

  • Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers are the children of the Traditionalist Generation. They were born to be ambitious, work-centric, cynical, but also loyal. Boomers are company people and expect to climb the social ladder because of that loyalty. While monetary rewards mostly motivate them, you can find they equally enjoy non monetary rewards as well - as long as there is a reward, that's all Boomers care about.

Because of this, this generation doesn't require constant feedback or pat on the back to keep them going. For them, as long as the boss doesn't say anything to them, everything must be okay.

  • Generation X

This generation was born to the previously mentioned generation, they too, don’t expect nor need constant supervision, preferring to work at it alone. They despise “sycophancy” and hold a higher value in doing what they love over corporate success. Past studies have shown that Generation Xers are more inclined to quit a job if they feel it takes too much time away from those they love and the things they enjoy.

This change in paradigm most likely stems from what they witnessed their parents going through: staunch loyalty to a company that never showed the same loyalty. Lastly, Gen X is the generation that brought freelancing to the forefront, as most of them were the ones who felt the brunt of the 2008/2009 global financial crisis.

  • Millennials and Generation Z

Both of these generations grew up with parents who didn’t want to raise their children the same way they were raised.

Gen Y and Z were raised believing that every feeling is valid and feeling that being praised for something - anything - is a right, whether or not they did something to deserve that praise or not. Unlike Boomers, Millennials and Gen Z are anything but loyal. This group understands the value of skill and were raised inherently knowing and understanding that corporations are only as loyal to their employees as they are valuable. Therefore, an equal relationship has been established between these two generational groups and the recruiters and employers who hire them.

From Online Everything to Less Work More Pay

It’s difficult to pinpoint one factor responsible for shaping today’s changing attitude in the workforce. More than likely, it’s numerous aspects all colliding together.

From the author’s point of view, it’s most likely the fact that people are beginning to understand how valuable their time is, especially when talking about talent. No longer do employees feel lucky to have been given a job by the boss but rather the boss should feel lucky that the job seeker chose to work for the boss’ company. In addition, the Internet has enabled a culture that barely needs to leave the house; everything from food, virtual relationships, gambling, a virtual life, to online courses are but a few keystrokes away. 

Then there is the freelancing and remote work trend sweeping the globe, with the United Kingdom ranking fifth in the world when it comes to Googling the word “freelancing.” All these things coupled with increasing operational costs are forcing more companies to take a serious look at four-day work weeks. And, from what can be seen at first glance, it is no longer a trend.

According to Science Trends, companies are recognising how four-day work weeks bring with them vital benefits such as higher morale, increased productivity, and psychological wellbeing. Additionally, according to research site FlexJobs, the following fields are the most likely to start seeing four-day work weeks soon.

  • Account manager
  • Administrative
  • Accounting and finance
  • Computer and IT
  • Customer service
  • Education and training
  • HR and recruitment
  • Marketing
  • Medical and health
  • Project manager
  • Sales

 

Being that most, if not all of these positions require higher education, those hoping to land one of these jobs should seriously consider pursuing a two to four-year diploma/degree