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Will 4-Day Workweeks Boost Employee Productivity?

By Ron Kitchens, writer
May 14, 2019
Image Credit: GaudiLab/Shutterstock
> Human Resources

Shortening the workweek isn't the answer to increasing productivity.

There is a popular phenomenon that suggests giving workers a four-day workweek rather than a five-day workweek may produce higher quality, more motived employees. This conclusion is supported by decades of academic research showing how employees are often more effective in their work when given additional time off.

While more time at home (and more productive hours when clocked in) sounds great to employers and employees, I can tell you firsthand as the CEO of a highly successful company that has won awards for its workplace environment that a four-day workweek is not required to motivate employees. In fact, employee motivation has nothing to do with how many days a person works in a week.


Give employees more schedule flexibility.

I grant my employees the same autonomy that I have as a CEO, to come and go as needed, and because of that, I hold them to a higher standard. Through my work and leadership experience, I discovered that when I empower my employees to be the CEO of their own responsibilities, they are far more motivated, and we see incredible results. Such a position obviously comes with more freedom than the typical title, but it also raises the bar of expectations.

To achieve trust and mutual respect, employees are expected to make their own schedules. It is my belief that if I do not have to account for all of my hours worked or dentist appointments kept, then neither do my employees. This attitude actualizes the expectation for each worker to be CEO of his or her own responsibilities. But not every individual who submits an application wants to meet this standard. I look for certain traits in employees and am committed to developing those leadership qualities, if present.

Let employees be their own personal CEO.

To succeed as CEOs of their own responsibilities, employees must be determined self-starters. The strength of their work ethic lies in how they go above and beyond to accomplish the initial goals laid out for them without a higher up peering over their shoulder at every turn. As CEO, I do not have time to constantly check up on the progress of everyone’s work. So why shouldn’t my employees have the same freedom to divide up their tasks in a way that is most beneficial to them?

Obviously, not every individual is interested in surpassing expectations. Much like the increased productivity seen in some four-day workweeks, I find that selecting innovative and driven employees makes for heightened efficiency in project execution. Trust communicates respect, and employees who are made to feel capable of greater success are more likely to achieve it.

While a four-day workweek may increase productivity in some workplaces, simply slicing hours will not motivate employees into becoming leaders. For long-lasting company success, workers must be treated with the same value as a chief executive.

Employers should search for ways to empower their workers as capable individuals; turning to quick fixes like a four-day workweek will not transform employees. It is by cultivating leadership qualities and treating individuals as CEOs of their own responsibilities that employers will earn the pleasure of working with a highly motivated team that endeavors to prosper.

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Ron Kitchens
Ron Kitchens
See Ron Kitchens's Profile
A visionary Economic Development and Philanthropic Leader with an extensive track record of success in economic development, startup initiatives, leadership development and transforming organizations and communities to attain robust growth with sustaining economic impacts. Over the last 14 years as Chief Executive Officer of Southwest Michigan First, an economic consulting firm that has experienced exponential growth, I have served as a consultant, leader, board member and founder of multiple startups and leadership development organizations. An engaging public speaker, show host, published author and mentor, my passion is in serving as a catalyst for change in communities, business development, training, and performance. Able to identify opportunities, align stakeholders, realign strategies and ensure viability to advance promising growth and community capitalism, I am committed to continuous growth and sustainable economic development. A graduate of the UCLA Anderson School of Management Corporate Director program and member of multiple boards including universities, arts organizations, and companies, I am interested in networking, economic development leadership opportunities, and guiding communities and start-up organizations to achieve sustainable growth and success.
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