As American workers place more of a premium on work-life balance, small business owners are discovering that flexible work schedules can help them recruit and retain top talent. In particular, the four-day work week is gaining in popularity among small businesses that promote a flexible workplace.
David Lewis, president and CEO of OperationsInc, a human resources outsourcing firm, often speaks to small business owners about the pros and cons of the four-day work week, and counsels companies on best practices for employee retention and workplace flexibility.
“A flexible work week is becoming more and more part of the norm,” he says. “So, business owners are thinking, what else can we do to be flexible and accommodating?”
Lewis says any business can be a good candidate for a four-day work week. Here are some of the top issues to consider before making the leap:
How will customers be affected? Do your clients expect 24-hour access to your employees or service? Would you still be able to offer the same turnaround time on orders in fewer days? Consider what will happen to customer service or vendors if you are closed one day a week. Or if key people are out on certain days.
Some firms stagger employee’s schedules so that not everyone has the same day off, and the business can maintain a five-day operating week.
At OperationsInc, Lewis said most of his employees work part-time by choice, because they’re willing to trade off higher pay and benefits for more free time. Many are working parents. Some are commuters trying to save time and money. “I think retention is the biggest driver here,” Lewis says. “You’re trying to figure out ways to attract and retain a wider population of workers.”
If you reduce the number of full-time and/or exempt positions on your staff, remember that may also affect how you calculate holiday pay, sick time, and your obligations under the Affordable Care Act.
Will it improve productivity? Proponents of the four-day work week believe it improves productivity and efficiency by motivating workers to stay focused on the job at hand. Lewis says this may require a culture shift, especially among firms that have mostly hourly workers. “You have to get employees away from the mindset that they’re working to the clock, and instead they’re working to the task,” he says.
Lewis encourages all small business owners to at least investigate the four-day work week. “It becomes a competitive advantage if you have it,” he says. “If it doesn’t work for you, that’s fine. But it shouldn’t be because you haven’t explored it.”
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