Lottie Bazley, senior strategic internal communications adviser at Staffbase explores…
As the UK continues to battle through ongoing talent shortages, employees have more power over the job market than ever before. For example, while remote working during the pandemic became a necessity for many, nowadays remote working alone is not enough to keep up with the competition. Instead, the dream of a shorter working week is becoming a reality.
Based on the recent UK pilot, a staggering nine in 10 companies are willing to extend the four-day work week policy beyond the initial six-month test period. Although the four-day work week may seem like a simple concept, there are multiple barriers that prevent it from becoming a reality.
From rising uncertainty amid economic pressures, the great resignation and widespread disengagement amongst employees, there are many issues for businesses to deal with today. Amongst all this, we must consider the all-important internal communications strategies to make it happen. So what can businesses do to ensure a smooth transition to a four-day work week?
Setting clear expectations
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be difficult under any circumstances, but it becomes even more challenging in times of economic uncertainty and the rise of so-called quiet firing.
In some cases, employees working four-day weeks might assume they will be expected to produce the same level of work in a shorter amount of time. This will lead to working overtime during evenings and weekends, setting back the initial objective to improve work-life balance.
While remote work has taught employers to have a greater level of trust in their workforce, the important part of the puzzle for a four-day work week is to communicate with employees in an inclusive and structured manner. Outlining clear parameters around these policies and ensuring employee involvement from day one will be key to making it a success.
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Meeting the needs of the workforce
Implementing a four-day work week can’t be achieved with a one-size-fits-all approach. This requires being aware of nuances within the workforce; whether that’s the lifestyles of employees who might be carers or parents, or the different needs of desk and non-desk workers; whilst still meeting the needs of customers.
To gauge how to best implement change, internal communicators need to make sure they listen to employees from all backgrounds.
While regular one-to-one meetings are great for getting personal feedback from employees, running employee surveys will help to make data-driven decisions. Not only will it quantify problems, but will also identify root causes and relay feedback in a timely manner. This continuous feedback loop will be crucial to ensuring a smooth transition to a four-day work week.
The power of multi-channel
Since the pandemic, digital communications have become the backbone of effective internal comms strategies. To keep the workforce engaged, informed and connected while transitioning to a four-day work week, a multi-channel comms approach is key.
For example, introducing an employee app for frontline workers who cannot be easily reached via email; rolling out an intranet for employees in administration; setting up a communication channel in Microsoft Teams for project managers; or deploying digital signage in production halls for factory workers – the possibilities are endless.
In the past few decades, technology has dramatically transformed the way we work, proving that for some businesses the five-day week is no longer necessary.
If done right, a four-day work week can be a real game changer for a business – having a positive impact on employee wellbeing, reducing operating costs, increasing productivity and ultimately building a more resilient workforce.
While it’s still early days, recent trials across the world have proved that a four-day week could be on its way.