HR Strategy

Post-pandemic Trends: The Great Resignation and the Four-Day Workweek

October 26, 2021

The business world is buzzing with predictions of a post-pandemic resignation boom. Titled the “Great Resignation,” employers from all industries could be affected by this trend. The Great Resignation is different than previous times of unemployment. People aren’t losing their jobs; they’re choosing to step back and resign. But the positions still exist, and employers still need the work done. Can a change in the workweek help cope with the great resignation?

What’s causing the Great Resignation, and what can employers do?

According to Statistics Canada, 130,000 people have left the workforce during the pandemic, meaning they have chosen to stop working and are no longer seeking employment. Now more than ever, senior leaders are under pressure. Many employees have refocussed their lives, and things like commuting aren’t worth it anymore. Employees are focussing on their mental health and well-being. With mental illness accounting for 30% of disability claims in Canada, and 70% of all disability costs, employers should be paying attention. As the economy re-opens, opportunities are becoming more readily available.

Employers should pay close attention to the Great Resignation and watch for effects on their business. Consider what your organization’s post-pandemic work life looks like. Changes are important not only for retaining your workforce, but also for potential hires and recruitment. But how will you distinguish yourself from other employers? Consider switching to a four-day workweek.

Benefits of a four-day workweek

The benefits of the four-day workweek could have a huge impact on your business, from reducing absenteeism and employee stress to improving employee mental health and benefiting recruitment and retention efforts. The four-day workweek has been found to decrease employee absences and act as a recruitment perk with potential employees, especially among millennials, more experienced workers, and workers with families. A happier workforce means that employees are more connected to the company. They will work harder, be more dedicated, and have longer tenure.

Steps to implement a four-day workweek

The four-day workweek is already being tested in Canada and could become a permanent feature for some organizations and industries. We understand that some organizations would want to stay ahead of the curve and leverage this opportunity to attract new talent and boost workforce productivity. So, let’s get into what to consider and how to go about switching to the four-day workweek.

Before deciding to implement a four-day workweek, conduct a market analysis and weigh the benefits. Looking at how other companies have successfully moved to a four-day workweek will provide you with insight and ideas. There isn’t necessarily one perfect approach to the four-day workweek but remember that flexibility is key.

For example, Microsoft Japan gave its 2,300 employees the opportunity to “choose a variety of flexible work styles, according to the circumstances of work and life.” The results of the experiment were extremely positive, indicating that workers were both happier and 40% more productive. Entire countries are following suit, with Sweden legislating six-hour days without a reduction in compensation. In Iceland, researchers are calling the four-day week an “overwhelming success,” leading to 86% of Iceland’s workforce moving to the shorter workweek. Trials are also being run in Spain, Finland, and at Unilever in New Zealand.

Check with benefit providers to ensure that reduced hours don’t influence coverage. Whether it be health and dental, life insurance, AD&D, long-or short-term disability, pension plans or RRSPs, consulting with providers is important. Some employees are willing to sacrifice or modify benefits and contributions for the condensed workweek, but for others it may be a dealbreaker.

After looking at the benefits and determining cost savings, if the four-day workweek is something that you would consider, seek independent legal counsel or reach out to our Live HR Advice service to ensure you cover all legislative and common-law requirements. For example, some jurisdictions have weekly overtime requirements, while others have daily.

Once you determine whether the four-day workweek is advantageous to your business, reach out to your employees to see what they think. Using the Survey tool, ask pointed questions to determine needs. What kind of shortened workweek suits them best? Are there certain days they want to work? If the four-day workweek doesn’t work for everyone, is there flexibility to allow employees to keep their same schedule? These are just some of the areas you may want to cover when gathering feedback.

Once you have their feedback, conduct an internal analysis to determine which four-day workweek option will work for you. If your business is customer-facing, you will want to consider the impact that reduced or condensed hours have on your clients, such as staggering employee schedules so that someone is always available to clients. The most favourable option is four eight-hour workdays, with no reduction in pay. Here you would be paying the same salary and your employees will be working 20% less. This option has several associated considerations, with the highest potential payoff for employee satisfaction. It would make the most impactful change. Many of the successful trials above, like Microsoft Japan, have used this model. Other options for condensed workweeks exist, including no reduction in pay and condensing the same hours into four days, or reduced hours alongside reduced pay. However, to see the full benefits of the four-day workweek, the four eight-hour workdays with no reduction in pay is the option turning heads.

If you really want to evaluate the effects on your organization, and you aren’t convinced that permanent implementation is what you want to do, consider a trial period, and measure the results for yourself. Just make sure to clearly communicate to employees that it will be a test period with a specific end date.

Now that you are ready, there are some important steps you must take to implement the four-day workweek. As mentioned previously, it is critical that employers meet legislative requirements and seek legal advice for considerations like overtime requirements or a change in compensation. Our advisors will walk you through any employment standards requirements and help to point out concerns you may encounter.

Review the plan with senior managers to discuss and address any questions they may have before communicating the plan to employees. Gaining their support will be critical when implementing the new schedule. Next, communicate the plan to the payroll department. They may require time to work out issues and calculations. Depending on the model you choose, vacation and sick time may need to be recalculated and modified in HRIS and payroll systems. Make the change at the beginning of a payroll cycle.

The most fun step is communicating to your employees. At this stage, it is time to celebrate! Most employees will be excited about this new change, but make sure to take time to address any questions or concerns that employees have about the new schedule. Provide employees with sufficient notice before the change takes effect. Lots of time and consideration has been put into making this happen, so it’s important to ensure that everyone in the organization is excited about the change. Make the big announcement and follow up with any required paperwork or agreements.

Finally, advise clients on what to expect. Provide them with updated business hours and advise them how and when they can contact people.

READ MORE: Got a remote workforce? Assess your health and safety policies for remote work.

Build your brand as a great employer

When it comes to recruitment, the four-day workweek can be a huge perk to potential candidates. This change allows you to become competitive, as candidates are now looking for flexibility, work–life balance, and time away from the office.

Simply being known as a great place to work will draw applicants. Update your job postings and highlight the benefits of working with the company, perhaps leading with the condensed workweek! When creating the job ad, don’t just list duties, catch attention, and think outside the box.

Use social media platforms to get the word out there and create a message that will help you stand out. Include testimonials from current employees who are happy with the arrangements. In a competitive market, be innovative but don’t solely rely on social media. When safe to do so, hold meet-and-greets for current employees and potential employees to mingle. In the end, it’s all about promoting your brand, which now involves a four-day workweek. Watch those applications roll in!

Expert HR support for transitioning to four-day workweek

There are many options and many business aspects you will need to evaluate to switch to a shorter workweek, but with big changes come big rewards. The bottom line: you can save money, improve productivity, and create a happier work environment. This strategy can be a win for both employers and employees, and it may make your recruitment efforts in a tough market that much easier.

The Great Resignation is an opportunity for you to make a change to how you do business. There is no doubt that COVID-19 has challenged Canadian business owners. Changing, adapting, and growing are necessary aspects of success. Switching to a four-day workweek requires a fundamental change to how your business operates, and HRdownloads is here to support you throughout. Talk to representative today to find out how our team can help you transition to a four-day workweek.

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