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Welcome to the four day week

02/05/2010

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I received an email from one of our senior managers this week regarding a member of their team who was asking to formalise an arrangement to work at home one day a week. Now here is a test for you, have a guess which day they wanted to work from home.

Of course it was Friday. It always is, isn’t it?

A few years ago I inherited a team of 5 people, three of whom had flexible working arrangements. All three were off on the Friday. I sat down with each of them and asked why they worked four days a week. The answers I received were pretty standard and totally understandable, about spending time with their children. I’m a Dad I get that.

So why, when I asked if any of them were willing to move the day from Friday to another day of the week, did they all refuse? The best explanation I could receive was to have three connected days off together. “Fine” I responded, “have Monday off” strangely they never took me up on my offer.

The current request is based on the length of the commute. Now I don’t know whether this is me being simple, but surely the commute is the same length every day? Or am I missing something? I’m not against flexible working, I’m not against supporting people to have a better work life balance but as the manager said in their email, “soon there will be no-one left in the office on a Friday”.

And to emphasise this point, you would think that surfing the web at work would go up on a Friday, with people winding down for the weekend, right? But if I look at the statistics for this site and generalise, there are always significantly less visits on a Friday than on any other week day.

This confused me to start and then I worked it out….you’ve all gone home and left me, I’m here on my own aren’t I ….is there anybody out there?

11 Comments leave one →
  1. 02/05/2010 10:02

    I guess your right, it is often Friday. And for those who work three days in the office, it’ll be Thursday and Friday. But isn’t it better to have early week days when everyone is in rather than having no days in the week a when the whole team can come together?

    Having said thaty, if I worked four days a week, I’d like Wednesdays off. I would then effectively work two-day weeks with alternating one- or two-day ‘weekends’. One can but dream…

  2. BJH permalink
    02/05/2010 12:53

    I used to work one day a week at home, but did a Wednesday. Maybe it’s because I really was working, rather than extending my weekend! It was really useful for getting quality “thinking” done with minimal interruptions and meant I was never more than two days away from havig some quality time to work in depth on something.

    It also meant I could pop a load of washing in, do a bit of cleaning, be there to receive a delivery, plumber, etc.

    Unfortunately I’ve since changed jobs and working at home is no longer an option … shame.

  3. Corporate Daycare permalink
    02/05/2010 13:55

    I’m all for 4-day work weeks…if it’s acknowledged and accepted that you are not going to be working a full day on the 5th day. When someone says that they are going to be online and working from home all day, every Friday, I’m not convinced.

    I do believe in flexible schedules, but they should not be automatic, there needs to be balance with the organization’s needs too. My guess is productivity is not at its all time high on Fridays in the office, even when everyone is there. I really don’t see how it’s going to improve if many people are working from home. For those at home, you are gearing up for gearing down…and for those of us left in the office, you are left with less resources and slower response times.

    My favourite request so far for a 4-day work week came from a senior employee. When asked for the reason why..he simply said, because so-and-so (his coworker) gets to. We also made sure he had the exact same amount of cookies that she did at snack time.

  4. Karen (Sayya26) permalink
    02/05/2010 14:28

    Such things are blasphemous in my part of the world. From the little I know of the work culture in my country- there’s no such thing really. We’re a 5 day-work from the office kind of people. Even so, we would not tolerate 3 and 4 persons demanding they take their day working from home on a Friday- what kind of wimpiness is this? Who’s the boss here? If they can’t come up with a real reason- then stick them with a Wednesday I say!

  5. 02/05/2010 14:29

    4 day weeks rock. I’d consider Mondays off too if switching to a 3-day week. 😉

  6. RyanW permalink
    02/05/2010 15:34

    I can’t recall exactly where I read it, but I recall a study a few years back on the 4 day workweek (4 10hr days). Engagement by the employees went up, measured by survey, but productivity went down, measured by usual internal metrics. The analysis was something like… employees working a regular 5 day schedule always worked more than 8hrs a day to finish up, but those on the 4 day schedule never worked late. They were happier, but overall productive hours went down.

    I’m sure this isn’t the outcome everywhere it is utilized, but it is something that has always stuck with me about flexible schedules.

  7. 02/08/2010 02:03

    When I lived in Miami and worked in Boca Raton, I occasionally worked from home on days when I had a doctor’s appt or something.

    I hated it.

    I worked so much harder when I was at home because I felt like I really had to work every single second. I felt guilty if I got up for a glass of water or to use the bathroom. But when I was at the office, I was “at work” the entire time, even if I was goofing off talking to the secretary.

    I’d rather work in an office any day and leave my work behind when I walk out the door.

  8. 02/08/2010 10:02

    @Rob – You make a good point around connection and communication. And I am so with you on Wednesday, its the new Friday!

    @BJH – I totally agree that working at home can be good for head space. Certainly seems Wednesday is a popular day too!

    @Corporate Daycare – I am all in favour of flexibility too. Where it is genuine, but I think when it constantly lands on a Friday it damages the “reputation” of flexibility. People see it as a skive not a business benefit.

    @Karen – I hear you!

    @Geekette – Hell, have the whole week off! 🙂

    @RyanW – I don’t have the evidence to back it up, but I think there is a difference between informal flexibility and formal flexibility. I am all in favour of give and take because I think it increases both engagement and productivity. But I am against entitlement.

    @The Gold Digger – Having worked at home for a number of years (because we didn’t have offices) I agree. The working day seems to become all pervading. Which is not good.

  9. emily permalink
    03/03/2010 22:48

    I enjoy browsing this page, I usually find out something interesting facts.
    Emily Randall from Husky Training.net

  10. 03/04/2010 08:28

    @emily – Thanks, although I would never try to manage Huskies….you win on that one!

  11. 06/02/2010 00:49

    Do you want to exchange links in the blogroll?

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