Alternatives to the four-day workweek

It’s a fun idea, but maybe not applicable to all. Here are some other options.
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· 3 min read

OK, we get it, the four-day workweek is so hot right now. Many companies that try it report great results. (I myself have volunteered to try it many times, in many different jobs, only to be rejected by my manager…)

But it’s not always feasible for every employee, depending on their job or industry. And for some business leaders, the idea is a complete non-starter. Others have tried it and didn’t like it.

For those employers who aren’t ready to experiment with “four on the floor, three out the door,”  there may be other ways to achieve the aims of a four-day workweekwhich, according to one trial, improved retention, employee mental health, and contributed to reduced stress. Four-day workweek alternatives include PTO policies like summer Fridays, flexible hours, company-wide time off, and the whimsical-sounding nine-day fortnight.

Summer Fridays. Last year, ZipRecruiter found a 56% increase in job listings mentioning summer Fridays. It’s becoming popular in the UK, too.

The phrase “summer Fridays” (also called summer hours) can mean many things, from giving employees the last day of every week off all season to early dismissal on select Fridays before holidays. It could also mean a set day of the week with no meetings.

There are a variety of configurations, but the concept is to let employees take it easy when there’s a pull to spend time outdoors, or when there may simply not be as much to do as other times of year.

Flex hours. If a full workweek is 40 hours, why does it have to be done evenly across five days? For a long time, organizations like Okta and even the federal government have offered employees flexibility on how to get those 40 hours done. This allows people to move stuff around so they can make ballet recitals and soccer games, or take off early to start their weekend plans.

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Company time off. Some companies, like PwC and LinkedIn, implement full weeks off at various times of the year for all or most of the workforce. Some popular periods include the last week of December and around the Fourth of July.

Nine-day fortnight. The elegantly named nine-day fortnight gives employees a four-day workweek every other week. Or, put another way, every other weekend is a three-day weekend. (Again, if my manager is reading this, I am willing to volunteer.)

Shorter work days. Another alternative that some employers are experimenting with is to have shorter work days altogether. Some have gone as low as five hours per day, but maybe six  could work too.

No hours? If you focus on output and deliverables, rather than time spent on work, you don’t need to monitor employees’ time at work at all, according to Carolyn Moore, SVP of people at Auth0. Moore adds that this can be a big boon for morale, leading to “a highly driven workplace with increased employee output, improved team rapport, and a flexible company culture.”

With nearly three-quarters of companies adjusting their performance management processes, linking pay to project performance is among the steps they are taking, according to Gartner director of research Benjamin Loring. He wrote that this can improve clarity on company goals and employee performance as well.

This does not necessarily have to be a company-wide policy. If managers can define a person or a team’s success using outputs and not manage their time, that’s easier for everyone and may also get more out of employees.

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