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4 days a week, why do you work?

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America does not believe it! Twelve years after setting wages at $5 per day (instead of 2.4) in 1914, Henry Ford, on September 25, 1926, announced his decision to adopt a 5-day week (instead of 6), 8-hour day (instead of 9) , without loss of salary, after 4 years have passed.

Faced with the criticism of distraught employers and evidently worried about the consequences of this initiative, this eminent entrepreneur, during an interview with the World’s Word newspaper in October 1926, explained the reasons that prompted him to take this decision that would radically transform America. labor market in the coming years.

He shares the two main reasons that, in his view, legitimize this development.

One, to allow more time for leisure, which until then had been considered “wasted time” or “class privilege”. Four years of experience with the five-day week showed him that ” The men return, after two days’ rest, refreshed and refreshed, and that they are able to put their minds and hands to work at once. “.

The second is the effect of leisure on consumption. According to him, ” People who have a 5-day week will consume more goods than those who work 6 days “and continue” It will lead to more work, to more profits and higher wages “.

To the employers’ objections that companies could not adopt this new work rhythm, Henry Ford answered them ” If the goal is to produce more in 5 days than we did in 6 days, management will find a way to achieve it “.

Mass be told!

The main reason the 4-day week makes it possible to better reconcile individual fulfillment with team performance is that it is not a means but an outcome to be achieved, and the starting point for organizational reinvention.

Two major components enabled the adoption of the 5-day week in 1926, according to Henry Ford: technological developments and Americans’ appetite for leisure.

It seems that after a century we are facing the same conditions for success: a high level of automation, digitization of activities and a strong enthusiasm for leisure time that, in the eyes of the French, has become more important than work. Indeed, according to a report by the Jean Jaures Foundation, the value of work has moved from second place in 1990 (after family) to fourth place in 2021 (after friends and leisure).

If the rhythm of 4 days a week is not new, devoting it as much as possible is now quite since the end of the Covid-19 crisis and seems to be a response to the need expressed by the French to find a better balance in life.

However, while we have many testimonials highlighting the benefits of a clearer distribution between life and work time, both from an employee and corporate point of view, we have very little information that allows us to understand the reasons.

This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why there are still so many leaders who do not believe in it or remain skeptical of this idea, as was the case with American employers in 1926.

So the question is no longer “Does it work?” rather, “Why do you work?” “.

What could be more natural than the fear that setting aside 47 extra days a year, without losing wages, could affect productivity. That is why Thomas Laborie and I decided 6 months ago to conduct a study on this topic.

The findings of this investigation into companies that dared to “make a decision” challenged us so much that we felt the need to share them as part of our The book is scheduled to be released in June 2023.

Here, as an appetizer, are some of the reasons why switching to a 4-day week “works” but also, because you have to know your “why to keep,” why you might not be walking.

  • A prerequisite: maintaining productivity

Benefiting from an additional 47 days of holiday per year paid by the employer is a new contract that only works if it is based on a ‘win/win’ relationship.

If the employer, for his part, offers this extra time for private life, it should be done with equal: obtaining from each employee that he does 100% of his work in 4 days while maintaining continuity of service, quality and productivity.

This non-negotiable clause is an opportunity to introduce the idea of ​​results-orientation rather than the norm for all company functions. In short, because salary doesn’t change, neither should the impact on the company—and our study shows that, in many cases, the company does better than before, for reasons described below.

It works less when the 4-day week is just another flextime option that complements a variety of existing arrangements, without being contingent on maintaining productivity.

  • Chase distractions and interruptions to increase focus

Organizing to process what was done in 5 days in 4 days requires a refocus on the Value Creation Zone, legitimizing the eradication of all the parasites that slow down productivity, are unnecessarily time consuming and cost more than they report.

This new work pace is an opportunity to put time optimization at the top of the pile on projects in order to minimize distractions as much as possible (interruptions from colleagues or managers without any real basis, fewer email exchanges, etc.) to maintain focus.

Ensuring productivity is maintained by working one day fewer per week is an opportunity to encourage questioning of many collaborative practices and actions, such as, for example, meetings (Why do we meet?) and reporting (Why do we need it?).

It works less if unfounded intrusive behavior is allowed to continue and, in particular, if the company does not take advantage of this to allow employees to test what is already there and try new ways of working and collaborating.

  • Develop the agility and employability of employees

Maintaining continuity of service, particularly in relational or intellectual functions, requires the development of diversity, separation, subordination, and companionship.

This new distribution of roles allows the company to become more flexible and employees to develop their skills and employability.

Works less when the company maintains a Taylor organization.

  • A fairer balance between individual time and group time

If confinement made it possible to uncover certain benefits of remote working, enthusiasm for remote work was sometimes at the expense of team cohesion, particularly when employees could benefit from 3 or more days of remote work.

Dedicating this new rhythm to work makes it possible to rebalance the time devoted to individual and group work.

It works less when a company allows a 4-day week to be organized individually and does not prioritize group work as a precautionary measure.

  • New managerial and collaborative attitudes

As Henry Ford pointed out, it is up to management to adapt in order to find solutions that allow this pace of work to be customized.

Thus, this project is an opportunity to legitimize the development of managerial culture and practices that must be based on trust, independence, accountability and team spirit, which are essential conditions for appropriating this new rhythm of work in good conditions.

A manager, who is not always able to decide what needs to change at an operational level, must learn to let go and co-build new operating methods with his teams, presenting an opportunity for the company to evolve from a “parent/child” to an “adult/adult” relationship. .

This works less well within companies that continue to create directive management based on prescriptions and monitoring.

  • A rested body for a peaceful mind

This is undoubtedly one of the main advantages of giving 47 days of extra rest a year.

In fact, in contrast to the reduction in the number of working hours over the same number of working days (of the sort 35 hours, etc.), this more visible and regular break makes it possible to eliminate an ever-increasing phenomenon: having to convert personal tasks into working hours (carrying babies, medical appointments, administrative procedures, shopping, etc.) and spending time on weekends or evenings preparing for or catching up on meetings or emails that we failed to deal with during business hours.

Taking advantage of extra time to rest and take care of yourself allows you to put your body back into high energy regularly and this is one of the main reasons why employees who work 4 days a week say they are less stressed and in better health. address their work week.

It works less when people do not devote that day of rest to their well-being.

In conclusion

As you understand, the improvement in well-being and productivity brought about by companies that have adopted the 4-day week is not obtained simply through better time management but through the adoption of new managerial and collaborative practices and attitudes.

It is therefore a joint management innovation project that has the peculiarity of inviting all stakeholders to find solutions to find a more equitable balance between individual fulfillment and collective performance, but also to surprisingly solve problems related to attractiveness and maintaining commitment. or prolongation of a career.

We have just provided a couple of reasons why it is possible to get the results that have been highlighted in numerous mediums. We invite those who would like to learn more while awaiting publication of our book and take advantage of the many comments from companies such as LDLC, Acorus Group, elmy, and CNAV on How to Do It? to follow us on our Linkedin account.

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