A new emerging trend

Since the beginning of this month of June, in the United Kingdom, more than 70 companies and 3,000 employees are experiencing, for six months, a model of reduced working hours without salary reduction. This initiative has started from the digital platform ‘4 Day Week, Global‘ under the slogan 100-80-100, that is, 100% of the salary, 80% of the day but with 100% of the productivity’.

It is not a new phenomenon, the formula has already been tested in countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Interestingly, they are all Anglo-Saxon, where the culture of work and productivity is significantly different from Europe. Additionally, in them ‘the great resignation’, as the massive dismissal of workers from their jobs is known, is causing the fight for talent to become increasingly bloody.

In Spain some practices have been initiated in this direction. But it has not been done following the salary maintenance formula. Thus, Telefónica and Desigual offered their workers the possibility of taking advantage of reduced working hours but, yes, with a ‘subsidized’ salary decrease (I mean, less than 20% nominal reduction).

The Man proposes four-day week sign. Notepad in hand.

Is a four-day work week viable for the company?

Obviously, we are referring to the reduced week with full salary. Of course, it is a risky formula since, if you fail, the return to the initial situation is complicated (not because of a legal issue, but because of the general perception of the staff, given that situation).

In my opinion, the proposed reduced week has a series of drawbacks that, analyzed from a purely business point of view, can generate more drawbacks than benefits. Let’s see it:

It is necessary to have a solid equipment management system.

Many companies are built on the basis of more or less autonomous teams. To the extent that the results have been maintained, finding common working models has not been a priority. It is a paradigm that has worked as long as the environment has behaved linearly. But digitization has sparked a revolution. The environment has become exponential. Internally, new ways of working have appeared, which have been consolidated after the pandemic. Thus, teleworking, hybrid work, project management or collaborative spaces are here to stay, but few companies have focused on the need to generate new methodologies or systems that allow productivity to be maintained. And less to train their leaders to assume their role in this new reality. Taking another step without consolidating the previous one is, to say the least, risky.

It is necessary to guarantee the customer experience

Companies exist to meet customer expectations. If I reduce the provision of work by 20%, at least in front-line jobs, it will be difficult for you to maintain the quality of the service without completely digitizing it -which can generate aversion- or increasing the workforce -only for very profitable-. But it is that with the back office employee more or less the same thing happens since we cannot forget that his ‘client’ is the external client. Thus, only certain teams could, in theory, access this experiment without affecting the client. And doing it only there can cause unwanted internal discrimination.

It is necessary to have a flexible model of labor relations.

It is not exactly the model of continental Europe, and less of the southern countries. In Spain it is something especially to take into account, given the wide sleeve in the application of the pro-operator principle. You can already foresee what can happen to you if the ‘experiment’ fails.

Alternative models for promoting flexibility

The foregoing does not mean that we should sit idly by while our best talents choose professional options that, under equal remuneration conditions, prioritize a better reconciliation of personal and professional life. If you want to avoid unwanted increases in rotation, you must implement some measures, as a matter of urgency.

First measure: Build a map of talent and discriminate positively 

Everybody’s coffee is at odds with performance management. I know that the word discrimination has its detractors, but when you add the adjective (positive) to it, it becomes a powerful loyalty weapon for volatile talent. But this positive discrimination cannot be based on subjective criteria of the chain of command. It is an HR obligation to keep the organizational diagnosis of talent updated.

Second measure: Build a work methodology 

In many companies ‘each master has his booklet’. This means that many ways of managing people coexist. I repeat, linear growth environments take it all, because direct supervision corrects behaviors. But hybrid or remote environments involve lower levels of monitoring. You need a unique methodology. In this context, for example, the OKR (objectives and key results) model can give phenomenal results.

Third measure: Make progress in streamlining schedules

Until you reach the four-day week, I am sure that you have a journey to take to fight for the conciliation of your employees: flexible entry and exit times, time pools for special circumstances, digital disconnection agreements. Explore that world from the hand of its representatives. Surely you will find new formulas for internal customer loyalty.

Thus, not everything happens by sacrificing the customer for the benefit of employee satisfaction. Your focus should be on prioritizing balance in the satisfaction of all stakeholders. And putting the focus on the great game that teams are going to play in this post-COVID era: increase their productivity in an environment of work flexibility.

You play a lot … Good luck!

Ricardo Alfaro