Employees are "dreaming" of a 4-day workweek, but bosses have different plans

2 weeks ago 7
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Many employees think their employers would just load them up with more work if they were able to condense their five-day workweek into four days, according to a new report.

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On short notice, COVID-19 demonstrated that the "new normal" of remote work was not only possible at scale, but could also increase productivity. The extended economic experiment could open the door to other less traditional work arrangements such as the four-day workweek. On Wednesday, Bizagi released its "State of Process Innovation" report, highlighting employee sentiments about a potential shift to a four-day work model, challenges hindering the implementation of such a framework and more.

"Innovating in an enterprise context can be extremely challenging. The bigger you get the harder it is to remain agile, particularly when legacy technologies and approaches are bound to hold you back," said Gustavo Gómez, Bizagi CEO. "Focusing on process change rather than technology change can help companies innovate while keeping the focus on the operations that impact customers the most."

SEE: IT expense reimbursement policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Four-day workweek: Tech and limitations

On short notice, the coronavirus pandemic quickly shifted the traditional workday for companies around the globe. Even as companies have started to bring employees back to the in-person office many are using hybrid models and others have made long-term commitments to work from home.

As the Bizagi report points out, "for years," workers have been "dreaming," of a four-day workweek. So, are companies now more receptive to implementing non-traditional work arrangements a la a four-day workweek after a year of remote work?

Over the last 18 months, Gómez said some employers reduced pay as well as reduced hours, instilling at times a four-day workweek.

"This is not the kind of four-day workweek most employees would hope for," he continued. "However, shattering the rules around where people work inevitably softened the importance of when employees work and the exact hours they keep."

A portion of the survey asked respondents to identify a series of tasks and processes they'd need to be able to complete their job in a four-day workweek model. To accomplish this, 45% said they'd need to "eliminate unnecessary tasks" they are "currently required to do" and 44% said they'd need to automate a portion of their tasks and responsibilities using technology.

In order, other top answers included working harder to finish these "tasks faster with current processes" (38%) and changing expectations in their "industry for how often employees should be on call" or available (25%). Interestingly, 12% of respondents said they wouldn't need anything to get their job done in four days and that they "already only do four days' worth of work, just spread out over five days," according to the report.

So, what are the top perceived limitations holding back employees from condensing a five-day workweek into four days?

About half of respondents (44%) cited the "demands" of their company's industry that cannot "accommodate one less day of work per week" as the reason they could finish their jobs in a four-day model, according to the report, and 43% said "all of the work assigned within [their] company is necessary and can't be eliminated."

Additionally, 40% said they spend the entire five-day schedule on work responsibilities, 17% cited a lack of access to the "right technology to automate tasks that save me time spent working," per Bizagi. One-in-10 said they were "not productive enough" at their job to complete their responsibilities in a four-day setup and 13% said they "spend too much time in meetings" and their work responsibilities require a five-day arrangement, according to the report.

What does the boss have to say about it?

The survey posed a hypothetical management question, asking employees what would likely happen if they were to automate portions of their job so they could accomplish these tasks in four days and told their boss about it.

Situationally, 46% said their boss would assign them "more work to fill the fifth day of the workweek" and 26% said the boss would not allocate additional work, but would "still expect [them] to show up for work five days a week" and 25% said their boss would let them adopt a four-day workweek, according to the report.

Citing this last statistic, Gómez said this suggests that "some employees do believe that there has been a shift in employer opinion on this subject," while noting that this figure was higher than the company expected.

SEE: Juggling remote work with kids' education is a mammoth task. Here's how employers can help (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

During the pandemic, the home often pulled double-duty as an office and virtual learning center due to the switch to online learning. On top of their job duties, many remote workers were also responsible for overseeing children learning online or providing care for other members of their household. According to a Blind poll published this spring, 54% of respondents with dependents at home said they would "need a flexible hybrid schedule" and about one-third (37%) said they'd need this flexible hybrid option as well as daily flexible hours.

"Over the last year and a half, parents found themselves juggling childcare and homeschooling along with work during the day. This naturally meant working odd hours, but not necessarily fewer hours," Gómez said. "These shifts towards flexibility have not yet ushered in the four-day work week, but they do begin to adjust the focus away from the number of hours that people work and more onto the results that they achieve."

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