Skip navigation

4_Day_Work_Week_body.jpgBy Erin O’Donnell.

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.

4_Day_Work_Week_PQ.jpgWhat’s the tradeoff for employees? A typical compressed schedule is 10 hours a day, four days a week. But at some firms, a shorter week also means shorter hours for employees.

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.”


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media Inc. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.


Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.


©2015 Bank of America Corporation



By Dr. Thomas Parry


Several years ago, I had a prophetic conversation with an executive responsible for managing all the absence programs for a 60,000-life financial services company. She told me that during the previous week, the CEO of her company had asked her: “What are we getting as a business for all this money we’re spending on health and related benefits?” She said to me that she knew exactly how much the programs cost but had no idea what value they added to the business. But then she added something interesting: “If I can’t answer his question, I look like a non-essential administrative function in my organization.” I am not sure if it was related, but she retired the next year.


As employers evaluate the future of health benefits for their organizations, two fundamental truths stand out for every benefits professional. First, health care is changing. Whether employers decide to provide employee health benefits through private or public exchanges, exit the health care system and pay requisite fines, invest in workforce health, or completely turn health decisions over to employees, the approach to health care benefits will never again be the same. Second, senior business leaders need highly-performing, productive workforces so that their companies can remain competitive. The challenge to benefits professionals is how to make the transition from health-as-cost to health-as-business value given these changes.


We find that benefits professionals in employer organizations understand these new realities conceptually, but when it comes to engaging in a conversation with senior business leaders in their organizations, they often get stuck for two reasons: 1) They typically lack the data to create a business case for workforce health improvement. 2) Their company is organized in benefit silos with more incentives to shift cost and risk to another internal program area than to work together for the benefit of the company as a whole.


So what is the economic impact of workforce health for employers? IBI researchers developed a statistical model that provides such estimates for the employed population.


Let’s use as an example a 10,000 life hospital system. Typically, this employer would equate the costs of health with health treatments and pharmacy expense. In this case, we would expect those costs to be about $33.7 million annually. However, when we include all the costs of health — lost work time, reduced performance and the associated productivity consequences — the total economic impact of health jumps to $70 million. We arrive at this figure by estimating wage replacements for absent workers at a total of nearly $13 million, and lost productivity associated with absence and reduced performance at an additional $23.6 million.


As benefits professionals proceed they must understand that regardless of their company’s decisions about financing health care, the lost-time and lost productivity consequences of health can never be fully shifted outside of their organizations. They also need to make the business case for health improvement in economic terms to their senior business leaders.


With all the focus on the cost of providing employee benefits, it is easy to overlook the potential value of those benefits if they can protect and improve employee health. Better coordination, relevant data and timely information can go a long way toward objectively evaluating the true cost – and value – of employee health to employers.


Four steps to get started:

  1. Step 1: Meet with your benefit-program counterparts and identify what data are available across programs to start to make build your business case.
  2. Step 2: Align interests across programs and move beyond compartmentalizing them to demonstrate the collective value of your programs to the business.
  3. Step 3: Put future data collection approaches in place that include leading indicators of health (such as biometric and health risk information); indicators of health care treatment (such as how and where care is delivered); and lagging indicators (such as cost, lost time, performance and productivity) so you can track changes associated with your interventions over time.
  4. Step 4: Let your vendor partners know exactly what data you need and why, and have them work in partnership to support your company’s health and productivity objectives.



About the Author: Dr. Thomas Parry is President of the Integrated Benefits Institute. He directs IBI’s activities and stewards its research agenda. Before co-founding IBI, he served 11 years as Research Director at the California Workers’ Compensation Institute. His research at CWCI encompassed a wide variety of topics in workers’ compensation, including medical treatment patterns, vocational rehabilitation costs and effectiveness, legal costs and trends, medical utilization, mental stress claims, and physical therapy patterns of care. While at CWCI, Parry was engaged in some of the earliest research and analysis on 24-hour coverage and integrated benefits.

Reprinted with permission from the author and Aetna. For more information see

Aetna is the brand name used for products and services provided by one or more of the Aetna group of subsidiary companies, including Aetna Life Insurance Company and its affiliates (Aetna).


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Aetna Inc. to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Aetna Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Aetna

Communication made simple…with the Aflac Employee Communications Toolkit


As a business owner, you have a lot on your plate. From customer service and worker productivity to keeping up with the competition, there are more than enough worries to keep you up at night.


Staying on top of health care and benefits communications should be the last thing you stress about. With easy-to-use templates in the Aflac Employee Communications Toolkit, you can simply add your company’s logo onto ready-to-use articles that you can print or publish in your newsletter or copy and paste onto your employee intranet. You’ll also find posters and tent cards in the toolkit, as well as short messages that you can copy and paste into emails or print on postcards.

What’s in the toolkit?

We’re giving you everything needed to communicate about benefits year-round, from the latest news on health care topics and reform to tips for staying healthy and information about specific types of insurance coverage. You can pick and choose from the toolkit materials, using only those that apply to your workforce or that align with the types of insurance you make available to your employees.

By using the resources in the Aflac Employee Communications Toolkit, you’re meeting a key workforce need: 37 percent of employees at small companies say their HR departments communicate too little about employee benefits.1

In fact, 62 percent of employees who participated in the 2015 Aflac WorkForces Report survey said they rarely or only sometimes understand the changes to their coverage.1 Better benefits communications could help address this lack of knowledge.

If you are like most employers, you’re probably giving your workers more responsibility for their health care decisions, but employees say they want more guidance from their companies. Nearly half (46 percent) agree that they’d prefer not to have more control over their health insurance expenses and options because they don’t have the time or knowledge to effectively manage them.1

Helping workers learn to manage their health care choices gives your company an opportunity to demonstrate that it cares about employees, as well as to curb potential absenteeism, low morale and low productivity. Workers may be responsible for their health care decisions, but the wrong choices can greatly affect their performance and state of mind in the workplace: Fully 20 percent named personal financial issues as the top non-work-related concern that distracts them on the job.1

One last statistic clearly demonstrates the importance of benefits communications – 39 percent of employees completely or strongly agree that a well-communicated benefits program would make them less likely to leave their jobs. 1 In other words, keeping your workers informed about their benefits options is critical to keeping them on board as the economy and job market improve.

Changing seasons, changing employee materials

Make it a point to visit the Aflac Employee Communications Toolkit frequently, because the information and resources there are regularly updated. You’ll find seasonal information as well as materials that reinforce specific health events, such as the Great American Smokeout, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Workplace Safety Month and many other observances that take place throughout the year.

This article is for informational purposes and is not intended as a solicitation.

1 2015 Aflac WorkForces Report, a study conducted in Jan. and Feb. 2015 by Research Now on behalf of Aflac, accessed June 15, 2015 –

Bank of America, N.A. engages with American Life Insurance Company of Columbus (“Aflac”) to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Aflac Inc. is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Aflac. Consult your  financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Filter Article

By tag: