Employee satisfaction is crucial for maintaining a strong workforce, and it is also necessary to recruit high-performing talent that consistently and efficiently accomplishes tasks.
In previous articles, we discussed the growing trend of incorporating four-day work weeks for your employees. One of the primary benefits of incorporating this less traditional schedule is that it contributes to increased employee satisfaction without hurting productivity.
However, this option is not viable for every company. Whether it is not conducive to your industry or to your nature of work, the four-day, full-time schedule is not the only method available. To help you find a compromise and improve your team’s satisfaction, here are alternative options to four-day work weeks.
Alternating four-day workweek
How is an alternating four-day workweek different from having a standard four-day workweek? Well, the difference isn’t drastic. However, it may be enough to help boost morale. Even the slightest improvement is better than no improvement at all.
In a traditional alternating four-day schedule, not much changes. The employee salary, personal time, and work hours all remain the same. The only difference is employees are given every other Friday off.
Typically, this option only equals to two extra days off each month, but it is likely to help improve employee satisfaction. In fact, Brian Abernethy, co-founder and CEO of Service Direct, discussed the benefits of alternating Fridays with SHRM.
One of the unexpected benefits, Abernethy noticed, was the increased efficiency in employee time management. He said, “One of the unexpected employee learnings has been how to more effectively plan your weeks in order to get things done. In our survey, one of our employees mentioned how Fridays used to be a “dumping ground” for poorly-thought-out meetings. That made me laugh and is so true. The alternating Friday structure has encouraged meetings to be created with better planning and respect for each other’s time.”
Abernethy also had a piece of advice for companies interested in implementing alternative Fridays: “Critical to the success of the program is making sure everyone—especially leadership—follows the new schedule. The fastest way for your team to feel like [this perk is] not a real benefit is if you still work on your Fridays off and continue to ping them on Slack and Asana, so you need to lead by example.”
Another way to make this option more realistic for your team is to have your workforce alternate the days they are off. Consider what team members are responsible for what job functions and strategically schedule your team so that should a situation arise, there is someone else who can possibly step in, answer a client question, sign off on a project, etc. Again, depending on the industry, this option may be more or less realistic.
Summer Fridays are a strong option for employers for a multitude of reasons. In fact, over 50% of U.S. companies were already offering summer Fridays in 2019, according to Gartner. The name is pretty easy to understand. Each summer, employees are given the option to have Fridays off (or a different day of the week at the discretion of the employer).
From the employee side, summer Fridays are wonderful. Typically, most employees will reserve their PTO for the summer seasons anyway and employees with children may also have a great appreciation for the extra time they will have to spend with their families who are already on summer vacation. However, this option does come with its downsides.
In order to have summer Fridays work, many factors need to align well. For starters, it needs to work within the industry you are in. For instance, my professional background is primarily in publishing and media, where many companies do offer summer Fridays or have flexible schedules to begin with. Summer also tends to be a slower season in these industries. With these factors in mind, summer Fridays are a viable option, but not all industries function this way.
It also needs to be determined if this time will impact employee personal or sick time, regularly scheduled working hours, etc. Alternating Fridays are a promising choice because it is consistent and can be adjusted or planned for. Summer Fridays are temporary, meaning clients or job functions need to be able to be flexible.
Flexible Fridays are another great option. However, it is an option that works best for employees and employers who are already capable of maintaining a strong work-life balance. Unfortunately, lack of work-life balance is likely one of the reasons for wanting a non-traditional work schedule in the first place.
Flexible Fridays, unlike the previous suggestions, are entirely optional. Employees are encouraged to not schedule any meetings and to use the day as they see fit. For some, that may mean taking the day off. For others, they may choose to work half a day or the entire day.
What makes this option both great and perhaps lacking is that it puts the employees in full control. As previously mentioned, some employees simply struggle to keep a healthy work-life balance and may continue to consistently work each and every Friday, which would mean they receive no benefit.
In this article from Protocol on flexible Fridays, the company being surveyed found that 44.4% of employees use Friday as a normal workday. Only 7.6% of employees were using the day as PTO. However, another 44% of employees were using the day to work and then take personal time.
If you’re interested in incorporating flexible Fridays but are unsure of how your employees will use the time, it may be best to do a test trial and have employees track their time usage. Having the exact data for your team will be helpful when making the final decision.
Employee mental health days
Unlike the previous options, offering employees mental health days places the control in the hands of your employees. Essentially, mental health days function the same as sick days. They don’t need to be scheduled ahead of time and you can choose to only provide a finite amount of them. They also will serve a purpose behind them that is meant to have a benefit for both parties.
Much like when you are sick, it can be difficult to remain focused on a task or to work as efficiently as you normally would when you aren’t feeling your best. Because of issues like increased burnout and stress, mental health days can help alleviate some of these symptoms. This is regardless of whether your employees work remotely or in the office.
Again, if you don’t rest when you’re sick, you are likely to prolong your sickness. The same rules apply to one’s mental health as well. Mental well-being is not only a priority for employees, but many employers are starting to shift to this focus as well.
Offering your employees time to use when they need it can help your employees to recover from burnout without having to accommodate your other employees or clients to any of the more permanent options.
The best part of these various methods is that you can incorporate different aspects to create a unique situation that works best to fit the needs of your employees and your employer. That could appear as having summer Fridays from June to August and incorporating flexible Fridays during the rest of the year. Or, it could be providing employees with more mental health days as well as flexible Fridays.
Ultimately, when it comes to determining which method to implement, I suggest the same advice that I typically suggest if you’re an avid reader of BrandResumes’ HR Corner. Talk to your employees. You won’t know what works best for them unless you hear it from them directly.
Be open-minded and be excited! The future of work is constantly changing. We can only hope that the efforts made by human resources professionals are to change it for the better.