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Redefining the Workweek
A critical look at Fridays, for C-Suite Leaders
The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on various aspects of our daily lives, particularly the way we work. Alexandra Samuel, in her article "What Should We Do About Fridays?" addresses the confusion surrounding the status of Fridays in the post-pandemic work environment. The article brings to light the pressing need for culture leaders to make strategic decisions regarding the treatment of Fridays in this new era of work.
The Traditional Workweek: A Source of Resentment?
Samuel discusses the possibility of reverting to the traditional Monday to Friday workweek, where everyone is in the office on Fridays, and a relaxed atmosphere is cultivated with casual dress and team bonding activities. However, this approach may inadvertently foster resentment among employees, especially those in customer-facing or on-site roles who may perceive a lack of flexibility compared to their back-office colleagues.
Moreover, the traditional workweek may pose challenges in terms of recruitment, retention, and engagement, as many professionals have expressed a preference for remote work and are reluctant to return to the office full-time. Although a hybrid schedule that includes remote work on Fridays may be a viable solution, it introduces its own set of complications, such as coordinating which employees work from home on which Fridays and managing the unpredictability of office attendance.
The Four-Day Workweek: A Panacea?
Another alternative proposed by Samuel is to officially designate Fridays as part of the weekend and adopt a four-day workweek. This approach is supported by global pilot programs that have demonstrated that a shorter workweek can maintain productivity while enhancing employee well-being. However, this solution may not be suitable for all organizations. Some businesses may need to offer Friday hours to customers or vendors, and many organizations have employees who regularly work 50 or more hours a week, making a reduction to a 32-hour workweek both unrealistic and undesirable.
A New Approach: A Different Set of Rules for Fridays
A third option suggested by Samuel is to retain Friday as part of the workweek but operate under a different set of rules. The office could be closed, and communications could be limited, allowing employees to focus on individual tasks without the usual interruptions. This approach offers employees a perk and an incentive to be extra efficient during the rest of the week to enjoy some flexibility on Friday.
However, this approach also presents challenges. It may lead to more work on Thursday evenings, particularly for organizations operating across multiple time zones, and it may be difficult to leave customer communications unanswered until Monday.
A Strategic Decision is Imperative
Samuel's article highlights the complexity of the Friday dilemma and underscores the need for a tailored approach based on the organization's needs and culture. It is incumbent upon CEOs and CHROs to carefully weigh the implications of each option and make a strategic decision that aligns with the organization's goals and values.
Ultimately, the key is to make a decision and communicate it clearly to all employees and customers. This will provide clarity and help everyone plan their workweeks and personal lives more effectively. Whether the decision is to return to the traditional workweek, embrace a four-day workweek, or adopt a new approach to Fridays, it is essential to make a decision and get everyone on the same page.
The best approach I’ve seen
Fridays should be designated as a non-meeting day to optimize productivity and enhance the overall work-life balance of the week. This dedicated time can be utilized for deep work, a concept popularized by Cal Newport, where employees can focus on strategic thinking, planning, and completing tasks that require uninterrupted concentration. By reserving Fridays for such activities, employees can enter the weekend with a sense of accomplishment and start the new week with a clear agenda.
Time management gurus like Stephen Covey advocate for prioritizing important but non-urgent tasks (Quadrant II), which often get overlooked in the hustle and bustle of meetings and daily urgencies. By creating a buffer day dedicated to these crucial activities, organizations can ensure that strategic initiatives are given the attention they deserve, ultimately contributing to the long-term success of the company and the well-being of its employees.
(Source: 7 Habits)
The pandemic has disrupted the traditional workweek and created a new set of challenges for organizations. Samuel's article serves as a reminder to CEOs and CHROs of the importance of making strategic decisions about how to handle Fridays in this new world of work. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, it is crucial to make a decision that aligns with the organization's goals and values and to communicate it clearly to all stakeholders. Ultimately, this will help create a more productive and engaged workforce and contribute to the organization's success in the long run.