June 18, 2024

Canadian Companies Embrace the 4-Day Work Week: Discover the Reasons Behind the Shift

Canadian Companies Embrace the 4-Day Work Week

Ayesha Khan is uncertain if she could go back to a traditional work schedule after transitioning to a four-day work week.

Ever since her company implemented the new four-day work week in March, Ayesha Khan, a resident of Milton, Ont., has been able to enjoy her Fridays with activities as simple as getting her nails done. As a mother of two, she shares that such activities used to take months to plan before the new work schedule was introduced.

Ayesha Khan, who works in client services for Sensei Labs, a Toronto-based software company, expressed her reluctance to return to the five-day work week. With the adoption of the four-day work week, she now enjoys the ability to prioritize her physical and mental health, finding the extra time invaluable for personal well-being.

Khan is among the many employees in North America who have transitioned to a four-day work week through a pilot project conducted by the non-profit advocacy group 4 Day Week Global, in collaboration with researchers from Boston College.

Last week, their findings were released, indicating that out of the 41 companies that participated in the survey, 35 of them stated that they are either committed to or considering keeping the new four-day work week scheme.

According to Joe O’Connor, the former CEO of 4 Day Week Global and a lead researcher in the study, this trial is the largest of its kind in North America and the first to have significant participation from hundreds of Canadians across nine companies.

O’Connor, who is also the director and co-founder of the Work Time Reduction Centre of Excellence in Toronto, stated:

“We’re observing that shorter working weeks result in happier, healthier employees.”

“They lead to organizations that are better positioned to attract and retain talent, and surprisingly, they also result in increased productivity,” said O’Connor.

During the study, companies, with most having between 11 to 25 employees, voluntarily implemented a four-day work week for six months between February 2022 and April 2023. The researchers allowed these companies to choose the most suitable method for reducing hours while ensuring that employees’ pay remained at 100 percent.

At Montreal-based firm L’Abri, the 15 employees now work 35 hours from Monday to Thursday as part of the four-day work week. Architectural designer Pia Hocheneder mentioned that the shift has led to increased focus during work hours and has also encouraged work-related gatherings after hours to compensate for any reduced social contact during the day. Hocheneder emphasized that it has improved their quality of life significantly.

Expanding the Four-Day Work Week to Larger Companies

Larger companies, too, are embracing the benefits of the four-day work week. Maureen Juniper, co-founder and partner of the public relations firm Praxis, explains that after engaging in workshops and webinars with 4 Day Work Week Global, they adopted a hybrid approach. Half of their 27 employees enjoy Mondays off, while the other half takes Fridays off, ensuring continuous client service throughout the week.

The shift has proven to be successful, with no adverse impact on revenue. In fact, internal data reveals a 25 per cent reduction in personal and sick days taken and a 15 per cent decrease in time spent on internal and administrative tasks. Maureen Juniper expressed her satisfaction, stating that the change has been life-changing and has led to increased business efficiency.

According to Winny Shen, an associate professor of organization studies at York University in Toronto, the study’s positive results are in line with previous research. However, she notes that the findings are somewhat limited as they primarily come from companies with relatively few employees.

Shen suggests that further research is required, particularly among randomized companies and those with a larger workforce, including more blue-collar workers. Scaling up the four-day work week approach in larger organizations with greater complexity may present unique challenges that require careful examination.

Shen emphasizes that while the four-day work week shows potential, there’s a need for further investigation before concluding its universal benefits across all circumstances. There’s a risk of employee pushback if the new schedule is not made permanent, as seen in the resistance to mandating a full return to the office post-pandemic. More research and analysis are necessary to better understand the long-term impact and feasibility of implementing a shorter work week in various organizational contexts.

According to Tom Collver, co-founder of AddPBJ, a pilot participant and remote e-commerce company, implementing a reduced work week may present unique challenges for each organization. However, he believes it’s worth exploring ways to make it work due to the potential benefits. Collver suggests that companies can take gradual steps and need not fully commit right away. Exploring the concept can be highly valuable, as the positive outcomes might be unexpected but highly beneficial.

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