The magnitude of the recession resulting from the pandemic was utterly unprecedented in modern times. National economies and businesses were greatly affected. When lockdown measures were first enforced throughout the UK, it would have been entirely inconceivable for the government and the public to even entertain the idea of a 4-day working week with a 3-day weekend. Although the pandemic is still a large part of our lives, businesses learn how to adapt.
COVID-19 has changed the way businesses look at productivity - and burnout
COVID-19 has proven that a 4-day working week certainly isn’t beyond our imagination. The fact that Hybrid working became the ‘new normal’ exemplifies how the working landscape we became accustomed too can be drastically altered at any given time.
Richard Jeffery (CEO and founder of ActiveOps PLC, a management process automation company) gives his take on the 4-day working week.
“Working fewer hours can lead to an increase in productivity levels,” he stated. “A 2014 study suggested that productivity declines after working 50 hours a week. In business, productivity is essential to maximise the value organisations provide to customers, whether in increased output or commercial savings brought about by increased efficiency.”
Jeffery continues: “By spending more time away from their workplace, employees can avoid burnout. Consequently, the time they do spend at work will be more fulfilling.
“Organisations that create a better environment for their team members’ wellbeing will see additional business benefits beyond productivity, such as a high retention rate, which lowers recruitment costs. In fact, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), poor health reduces national GDP by 15%, almost twice the 8% hit to GDP that the pandemic itself has had.
“Thereby, it’s no secret that investing in your employees’ health and wellbeing can reduce sickness rates, improve work motivation and encourage a better sense of team morale. Thus, employee wellbeing is the key to management success.”
However, Jeffery notes that business leaders must be aware of real-time performance measurement.
“Businesses should be aware that a 4-day working week can only improve productivity if appropriately managed,” Jeffery explains. “Business leaders must focus on the wellbeing of teams through real-time performance measurement.
“It is now possible to have a workforce optimisation solution (WFO) to provide managers with real-time data during the 4-day week. A business now requires unveiling real insights and implementing operational changes that promote cultural and production consistency.
“Recognising that capturing real-time data at aggregate and individual levels can enable a company to uncover more prominent organisational trends that drive overall business efficiency. In a global business environment that is both highly competitive and relentlessly volatile, access to real-time performance data – or a lack of access to that essential data – will make or break businesses.”
According to Jeffery, it is also essential to consider the profound consequences when a business doesn’t have insight into the data required for the managers to make fast and accurate decisions over scheduling and workforce levels across departments.
“Shortages of resources, limited capacity, and backlogs of work yet to be processed inevitably affect the customer experience on the outside and decrease employee morale on the inside.
“Similarly, organisations don’t want employees to face burnout, scrambling to be more efficient during their 4-day week. This lack of coordination can genuinely eat in overall efficiency and subsequent engagement, leading to lower productivity and higher staff turnover.
How the restructure can support employee mental wellbeing and increase workforce intelligence
“It also cannot be ignored that there will be a growing need to reskill managers to support the 4-day working week,” Jeffery continues. “It is important to give managers the support they need to align and deploy their front lines. This will mean equipping them with the right tools, processes, and skills to train and certify managers if the transition is to be made. Businesses should invest in workforce intelligence as they can uncover opportunities for managers to simplify running operations, be in control and increase productivity.
“Due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic, it is no wonder that many countries are piloting ways of improving productivity. If trials are successful, business leaders will need to play their cards right to maintain or even improve productivity levels through the change.
The drive towards optimising organisational efficiency and productivity should no longer centre solely around performance and profit but equally revolve around maintaining high levels of employee mental wellbeing.” Wellbeing is here to stay as a management demand, and that can only be a good thing for employers and employees alike.