Work life

Four-day workweek has potential to take hold, starting with California, Gartner HR expert says

Gartner’s VP of HR says the four-day workweek is considered an enticing recruitment and retention strategy for employers.
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· 3 min read

California could soon codify chill vibes into law as its state legislature considers a proposal that could make a 32-hour workweek a reality for workers at private companies with 500 or more employees. But maybe wait a tick before you crank up the Phantom Planet: The state assembly’s Labor and Employment Committee will decide this week if it will move forward, and opposition, including that from California’s Chamber of Commerce, has been staunch, the Wall Street Journal reported last week.

Regardless of what shakes out in Sacramento, a certain “momentum” is swinging in the direction of alternative work arrangements, according to Brian Kropp, group VP and chief of HR research at Gartner. Kropp told HR Brew the California bill is indicative of a changing tide: “The fact that it’s getting a lot of attention, and that it’s getting closer to potentially passing, speaks to the momentum around companies thinking differently about what work looks like.”

Companies are experimenting. The idea of a shortened week isn’t so radical, Kropp told us. Last summer, only 2% of companies were experimenting with a four-day work or an alternative schedule, but that jumped to 15% by March, according to unpublished research conducted by Gartner that surveyed 250 executives at firms in the US and UK. Kropp said that 15% is still not a very large percentage, but given the tight labor market, he believes organizations will continue to attempt to woo talent via alternative schedules. The remote work consultancy, Buildremote, has a running list of companies worldwide implementing four-day and asynchronous schedules.

“What [companies] are trying to experiment with is, if [they] become more flexible, not just about where people work, but when and how much people work, then they see that really as a competitive advantage in terms of attracting and recruiting talent.”

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What kind of alternative schedules? New riffs on the workweek aren’t always confined to 32 hours spread across four days. Some are shuffling the paradigm, he noted: “There are other companies that are experimenting with things like every third Friday off…or every other Friday.” And beyond that, Kropp says there’s a work-when-you-want approach gaining steam.

Certain employers are “telling employees, ‘if you want to work early in the morning, then take afternoons off, and work 7am–2pm or some version [of] that, then go for it.’”

It’s also about mental health and productivity. Because people are “burnt out from working from home,” Kropp said, companies are evaluating asynchronous schedules. “The bet those companies are making is essentially, if my employees have better mental health and have more breaks from work, that when they’re actually at work, they’re more productive.”

The California ripple effect. “If California were to adopt a 32-hour workweek as the standard, there’s a lot of other states that are going to follow, like Massachusetts…[and] Vermont,” Kropp predicted, adding that companies with workforces spread across California and other states might be forced to adopt a shorter week. “And as soon as you get past three or four different places adopting [a four-day week], what most companies then do is just adopt it for the whole workforce.”—SB

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected] or DM @SammBlum on Twitter. For completely confidential conversations, ask Sam for his number on Signal.

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

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