Top employees will gravitate to companies that implement four-day workweek as it becomes more common
Some of the Toronto companies that tested a four-day workweek are sticking with it, and cite higher productivity and better work-life balance as the reasons for the change. McGill Desautels Professor Jean-Nicolas Reyt thinks it will eventually become the norm, and companies that resist it risk losing talent. “The best employees will leave,” Reyt told Radio-Canada.
The potential for office work to be performed remotely has been evident since the advent of email and the web, but for decades, most employers allowed only very limited remote work. The pandemic let that genie out of the bottle and finally granted employees what many had been advocating for in vain, writes Associate Professor in Organizational Behaviour Jean-Nicholas Reyt in an opinion piece for the Montreal Gazette.
McGill Desautels undergraduate students Aaron Anandji (BCom’25) and Zacharie Faucillion (BCom’23), Co-Executive Directors of McGill Ventures, took second place at Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business’ National Undergraduate Negotiation Competition (NUNC) this April.
Hybrid work arrangements give employees the flexibility they need, but leverage benefits of in-person interaction
One of the biggest names in tech thinks the move to fully remote work is a big mistake. According to Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, everyone needs to be together to create a cohesive and productive work environment. And that’s partly right, says Jean-Nicolas Reyt, an Associate Professor of Organizational Behaviour at Desautels. “The vast majority of the economy has switched to hybrid work, and not fully remote,” says Reyt.
Office workers adopted remote work on a massive scale during the pandemic, and many of them only want to return to the office on a limited basis. This was a major issue in the spring 2023 strike by the Public Service Alliance of Canada. In the union’s new contract, remote work requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. This makes an amount of sense, according to Desautels Prof. Jean-Nicolas Reyt.
The results are in, and the four-day work week isn’t only good for workers – companies like it too. In a six-month UK study, 61 employers trialed a 4-day work week that asked employees to perform the same work in less time, and at the end of the trial period, 92% of participating employers chose to make the shorter week permanent. “This is in line with previous study we’ve seen before,” said Prof.
Remote work promised office workers more freedom and flexibility, but digital surveillance tools are already eroding that. Some employers use digital surveillance tools that monitor employees’ computer activity by logging the keystrokes on their keyboard, and even taking web cam photos to ensure that they are dutifully staring at their screens.
About a year ago, Poche et Fils conducted a trial of the four-day work week that has since become permanent. Employees at the Montreal-based clothing companies receive the same pay as when they were working five days a week, and the company has sought to maintain the same productivity too. The first step was identifying tasks that were time-consuming and useless -- and eliminating them. But there are other ways that a shorter work week can save time too.
It is no secret that inflation has sent costs soaring, but wages are going up too. In a recent survey of US small businesses, more than two-thirds said they had increased the wages of their employees. Companies that don’t match inflation are essentially asking their staff to take a pay cut, says Prof. Jean-Nicolas Reyt in an interview with BBC Worklife.
Montreal telecom company Oxio is a leader on salary transparency, but many companies are unlikely to volunteer this information
If a company doesn’t want to share salary information, there could be a reason for that. About 75 per cent of people don’t negotiate a higher salary for themselves, and women and minorities are underrepresented among those who do not, according to Prof. Jean-Nicolas Reyt. But Montreal-based telecommunications company Oxio is taking steps toward salary transparency.
According to Professor Jean-Nicolas Reyt, making the switch to a four-day work week will require significant shifts in social and economic rhythms at a personal and professional level. Fortunately, the change could naturally carve out more time for leisure by boosting productivity during more limited work hours.
Launching the second season of Delve’s The "New Normal" podcast series, Professor Jean-Nicolas Reyt discusses why businesses should embrace a hybrid work method, why the future of workspaces needs to change from the status quo, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced management to change in order to adapt to a new reality – plus the one thing companies can do for remote workers to make sure they’ve got
Although remote employees have more flexibility to establish a work/life balance that suits their needs, there are several downsides to the arrangement, says Professor Jean-Nicolas Reyt. Remote workers often report feeling isolated from the team, and they may feel pressure to work longer hours, leading to burnout.
More Quebec workplaces are making the transition to a four-day work week in an effort to boost the productivity and wellbeing of their employees, particularly young professionals who place a higher priority on work-life balance. From Professor Jean-Nicolas Reyt’s perspective, employees work more efficiently during shorter weeks because they’re more rested and focused.