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Amid the 'Great Resignation', Could Companies Start Adopting the 4-Day Workweek?

By Rachel Warren, Jason Hall, and Toby Bordelon – Dec 9, 2021 at 1:30AM

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People are quitting their jobs at record rates, and businesses could be forced to adapt to meet workers' demands.

People are quitting their jobs right and left, and this trend doesn't appear to be anywhere close to dying down. In this segment of Backstage Pass, recorded on Nov. 15, Motley Fool contributors Jason Hall, Toby Bordelon, and Rachel Warren discuss some of the push factors driving "The Great Resignation" and what companies can do to attract a broader pool of candidates.  

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Jason Hall: Our second one, the deuce here, people are burned out. I've been thinking about this, guys. This was actually a really interesting path. I'm not thinking about quitting my job here, but like just it feels like everything is more stressful a little bit harder and I do feel just a little more burned out. There's a subreddit named anti-work.

It's becoming super popular, and you start looking at like the data from the Department of Labor, about five million people have exited the labor force. In other words, these are people that are no longer working, no longer employed, but they're not filed for unemployment. Indicating to the government that they are looking for work, so they've exited the labor force.

The estimates are that at about 4.4 million, I think, 4.4 million people quit their jobs in September. You have like three-and-a-half million people, or 3.4 million people of that five million, they exited the labor force that are estimated to have retired, so they're not coming back to work. We know, we hear the data.

All these, 10 million jobs open right now, less  people filed for unemployment right now than there are open jobs. But it doesn't seem like anything sticking, doesn't seem like anything is really working here so far.

There's a consulting company called Eagle Hill Consulting. Did a survey, said workers want a four-day work week. Now, I don't know all about that. I mean, maybe. Maybe. Before we do the topic, what do you guys think about that?

Toby Bordelon: Well, look do you want, I mean, I would love a four-day work week if I'm getting paid for five days. Right, is that what we're talking about? 

Jason Hall: If we're doing it on that metric, make it three days. Come on here.

Rachel Warren: Right. We'll just cram it all into three days. [laughs]

Toby Bordelon: Yeah, sure. Are we talking about work 20% less for the same pay or are we talking about just working less for? If think you need to clarify those things from survey standpoint.

Jason Hall: I agree. Rachel, what do you think here?

Rachel Warren: Yeah. I think it's a fun idea. This is something I've heard discussed a lot. I think it depends on the organization. I think it also depends on the kind of job that you have. I think maybe if you're more of a freelancer type, you know your schedule is so variant anyway, it might just depend, whereas if you're working for a big organization or big company then maybe they can implement those changes.

Jason Hall: It's tough. It really is because obviously there's not an obvious answer to this. There's really not.

Rachel Warren: I don't think it's a one-size-fits-all thing. I don't it will work for everyone.

Jason Hall: No. I think that's one of the cool things about this shift that we're undergoing is that, there's going to be just such a spectrum of outcomes that are optimized for different people, different types of work. It's really interesting to see how it plays out. 

Here's the question that I want us to talk about, Rachel I'm going to get you to go first here. It's a two-parter. What companies, if this did become the new normal, the four-day week became the standard, the de facto standard, which companies would thrive, which companies would struggle?

Rachel Warren: Not to play with magician here because I'm not really sure...

Jason Hall: Oh, you have the power:

Rachel Warren: But I have the power to make it happen. Yeah. It is interesting as I was thinking about this. I think this would be an adjustment for most companies. I think whether you already have a flexible working policy in place or not, I think it would take time to implement, but I do think it's a model that could definitely work.

I know there's a lot of companies that have tried this out, sort of a brief testing period. I think sometimes people prefer the idea of maybe you even work more hours in a four-day period, to fit that 40-hour work week, 38 hours into those four days. But then you get a three-day break. I think there's something attractive about that for sure.

I think companies like brick-and-mortar retailers, big-box stores, that would be pretty much impossible. I think there's certain types of business models that would be much more, have a much easier time adjusting to this strategy than others. Off the top of my head I was thinking of companies like Twitter, Facebook. 

 I know Twitter already has like, I believe, a 100% work-from-home policy, or at least a very friendly work-from-home policy. I think that if you're already in that environment, it lends itself to a more flexible work week. Maybe companies like Shopify, Zoom, Amazon.

I think there's a lot of room to meet worker demands and expectations without necessarily impacting the top and bottom line for businesses. But I think it would take a lot of adjustments. I also think that it might be easier for some smaller companies to implement this than larger ones.

But it was interesting because I did a little research about the four-day work week, and who's been trying this out? I found this interesting list on, and it was talking about, for example, in Iceland, they conducted this trial between 2015 and 2019, that involve 2,500 workers, which was about over one percent of the nation's working population who moved from working 40 hours a week to a 35 or 36 hours a week without a reduction in pay. There was some different smaller companies that have tried this out for periods of time.

There is actually a trial done by Microsoft Japan, back in 2019 that was testing out doing a four-day work week and a three-day weekend in the summer time. You see these interesting things where companies are trying this out. Shake Shack actually, did a trial of that where they were compressing shifts into 32 hours a week for workers, I think to try to balance out the pressure on people there. That was interesting.

I think it would take time to implement. One last note here. I was looking up there with some great statistics from the Society for Human Resource Management, essentially, surveying workers and employers to see, OK, what's the appeal of these types of schedules within the context of the four-day workweek. Apparently, 30% of workers have reported leaving a job because it did not offer flexible work options, 45% of respondents said they were interested in working an alternative work schedule, and 74% of workers said that work-life balance was a top factor when evaluating a job.

Also in the study, they said 23% of organizations have implemented a true four-day work week, in which partial operations closed for at least 72 hours a week. This was back in 2020, the study was done.

I think companies are looking into it. I would be interested to see as the workforce environment is changing if more companies decide to try to this out to try to entice new workers. 

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Randi Zuckerberg, a former director of market development and spokeswoman for Facebook and sister to Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Teresa Kersten, an employee of LinkedIn, a Microsoft subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Jason Hall owns shares of Shopify and Zoom Video Communications. Rachel Warren owns shares of Amazon, Shopify, and Zoom Video Communications. Toby Bordelon owns shares of Amazon, Microsoft, and Shopify. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Meta Platforms, Inc., Microsoft, Shopify, Twitter, and Zoom Video Communications. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long January 2022 $1,920 calls on Amazon, long January 2023 $1,140 calls on Shopify, short January 2022 $1,940 calls on Amazon, and short January 2023 $1,160 calls on Shopify. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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