You’ve probably been hearing a lot about the possibility of four-day work weeks recently. You may have been dreaming about a four-day work week since the start of your career. There’s a lot of appeal to the idea of capturing a three-day weekend every single weekend.
Here’s the thing: I agree that we need to find a solution to workplace stress and maintaining balance in our lives.
But I am not convinced the mandated four-day work week is the best way to make this happen.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Of course, a software company HR exec isn’t all for giving everyone Fridays off.” Here’s the plot twist: it’s not for the reason you think.
It’s not because I think productivity will drop.
It’s not because I think employees will disengage.
It’s not because I can’t make it make financial sense.
It’s not because I am a tyrant who loves to see people glued to their office chairs.
It’s because, for knowledge workers craving workplace freedom, I don’t believe a four-day work week offers enough freedom.
Focus on outputs, not inputs
The mandated four-day work week is still an employer-prescribed, top-down methodology that is too focused on inputs (i.e., hours spent in the chair) versus outputs.
It could just be code for “do your job when we tell you to, but now just do it faster.”
And as far as I’m concerned, that’s a lose/lose.
Let’s be clear: a four-day work week might be perfect for some people. But it shouldn’t be dictated by the company.
True freedom at work
So, what IS the solution? It’s exactly what we’re working on building here at Alludo: True freedom at work. And that means—when the situation allows it—working wherever, however, and whenever you want. The best employers and managers focus on outcomes, not inputs like hours spent or people in seats. They want to know if you’re getting your job done and doing it well. They couldn’t care less whether you prefer to wake up at the crack of dawn and hit the ground running, or spend the day with your family and focus on work at night. That’s exactly what we want to see here at Alludo, and ideally in as many places as possible where knowledge work happens.
True freedom at work isn’t the ability to leave work early to watch your kid’s soccer game. It means that watching a soccer game in the middle of the day isn’t “leaving early” at all.
Sure, there are times when the team will need to be aligned for a meeting or a deadline. But that noon meeting might be the beginning of the day for some and the end for others. It might be a quick moment of work focus on an otherwise non-work day. And if you have a global workforce like we do here, flawless alignment on work timing isn’t realistic anyway.
This isn’t just about making a more welcoming workplace for employees, though that’s a big part of it. It’s also smart business. Seriously.
We’ve found that freedom and flexibility are not only great for people, but also for our company. During the pandemic, knowledge workers everywhere proved that productivity didn’t require an office. And it goes without saying that work/life balance can be dramatically improved by taking away the artificial constraints of “industrial-era” 9-5 office work. When the focus is on results instead of counting people sitting in cubicles, employees discovered they could make more space not only for their lives and families, but also for their careers.
Why wouldn’t we want to lean into that?
Again, I acknowledge that this philosophy only applies to knowledge workers. I’m humbled by and grateful for the essential workers who keep the world healthy, safe, and fed by showing up (literally) every day.
To be clear, a four-day work week might be ideal for some knowledge workers. And if you’re one of them, I believe you should have the right to ask your employer for it. But it shouldn’t be dictated to you, nor should any other rigid schedule.
If you’re an employer who is considering implementing a four-day work week at your company (or have already done so), please think twice before making it mandatory and dictating the specific day people need to take off.
Freedom at work, counterintuitively, can be an adjustment for both knowledge workers and employers. And yet, when you embrace freedom at work and lean into tracking outputs instead of inputs, I believe everyone wins.
A version of Scott Day’s blog originally appeared on HR.com.