Exploring the possibility of adopting a four-day workweek

The option of working a four-day workweek is starting to gain traction and at least one Winnipeg business has already adopted the practice.

Friday isn’t the end of the workweek at Brandish, a Winnipeg-based marketing and advertising agency.

Since the company implemented a four-day workweek, Friday is technically the weekend.

“There’s not a lot of rules, we’ve kept it simple,” said Lee Waltham, managing partner and co-founder of Brandish, “We just keep team members out of meetings and just opened up that day.”

Contracting the workweek to four, eight-hour days started last summer at Brandish, originally as a two-month pilot project.

Almost a year later, Waltham and other decision-makers at the company have found no real loss in productivity among their team of 30 plus employees, even though they’re technically taking an extra day off.

“If you take that minimal disruption,” said Waltham, “And all of this upside – happier, less stressed, less anxious, more creative, more productive people – it’s a no-brainer.”

A contracted workweek has gained traction among major employers, with towns in New Brunswick and Ontario implementing a six-month trial period at the start of May.

That isn’t to say every business is on the road to shortening the workweek, but employers who stick to the traditional nine-to-five model requiring workers to be in the physical office may have trouble filling positions.

“Probably about 50 per cent of the candidates we speak to turn that down on the spot,” said Matt Erhard, managing partner at Summit Search Group which specializes in professional and executive recruiting in Winnipeg.

Erhard says there’s a bit of a talent crunch for skilled workers right now and the rise of remote working has only made the labour market even tighter.

For example, a skilled professional in Winnipeg could work remotely in the city for an international corporation.

“We’re going to see more of that happen,” said Erhard, adding that – while larger corporations may be able to offer higher salaries – exclusively working remotely may not be ideal for everyone.

“Not having any colleagues or local affiliation is definitely a bit of a deterrent to some candidates,” he said.

The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce has found there are a lot of vacant positions to fill in the province, largely due to the pandemic, as workers left their old jobs for new opportunities, more stability, or retired.

“There are a variety of things that are happening right now that are changing the nature of work,” said Karen Viveiros, the Chambers of Commerce’s director of marketing & communications.

Viveiros adds that more Manitoba employers are mulling the idea of – or implementing – a four-day workweek.

“It offers a whole new world for employers to explore productivity,” she said, “I think it allows people the opportunity to really refresh.”

Shortening the workweek, however, may not be a viable option for every industry or workplace, though increased flexibility for workers can come in many forms.

“You need to do a really deep dive and a good analysis of what works for your workforce, what appeals to them,” said Viveiros.

Waltham agrees and is encouraging employers to seek out ways to improve working conditions for employees, even if it doesn’t involve taking Fridays off.

“I do think there are opportunities, regardless of your organization, your industry or your size, to explore flexibility and autonomy for your team members,” said Waltham.