With Iceland and Japan, and even many organisations in the UK, gradually introducing a four-day working week, organizations elsewhere around the globe are considering whether this is an effective strategy to reduce work pressure. However, many argue that a shorter work week actually has a lesser impact on positive work productivity and employee satisfaction than a normal five-day week.
What is important at this point is to understand what hybrid work means – a definition that might vary from organization-to-organization. Rather than replacing old rules with newer ones, what’s required is flexibility in the workspace. With more and more global work coming into play, hybrid work might be a means to level the playing field.
Richard Doherty is the Senior Director Product Marketing at Workday with EMEA-wide responsibilities for Workday’s HCM and financial management applications. Prior to Workday, Richard was part of a team that pioneered cloud-based recruiting and talent management solutions in Europe. Gemma is an experienced senior HR professional, Chartered Fellow of the CIPD, Fellow of the HEA and a regular speaker and writer on a variety of HR topics including employee engagement, flexible and hybrid working and wellbeing. Gemma is the author ‘Flexible Working’ published by Kogan Page. Her next book, ‘How to Work Remotely’ will be published in 2022.
Watch the full discussion between Richard and Gemma, only on HRD Connect: The changing workplace: how can we embrace the future of work?
Key Time Stamps:
0:30 – How to be flexible in terms of hybrid work and working from office?
1:15 – Is a shorter work week the answer to better productivity?
2:16 – How does a shorter work week help part-time workers?
3:25 – The paradox of inclusion and flexible work
Richard Doherty, Senior Director, Workday
Richard Doherty is the Senior Director Product Marketing at Workday with EMEA-wide responsibilities for Workday's HCM and financial management applications. Prior to Workday, Richard was part of a team that pioneered cloud-based recruiting and talent management solutions in Europe.
Gemma Dale, Lecturer/Author, Liverpool John Moores University
Gemma is an experienced senior HR professional, Chartered Fellow of the CIPD, Fellow of the HEA and a regular speaker and writer on a variety of HR topics including employee engagement, flexible and hybrid working and wellbeing. Gemma is the author ‘Flexible Working’ published by Kogan Page. Her next book, ‘How to Work Remotely’ will be published in 2022.
When we have leaders who are both vocally in support of flexible working or very much against it, that does influence the tone throughout the organization. And I do find it quite disappointing when people say things like that, because for me, it comes from a place of privilege. It comes from a place where the office and that Monday to Friday, 9-5 worked ok for you. But it didn’t work ok for everybody. And I think when I hear people say that, for me, it comes from that place of this is what works for me. So I’m going to assume everybody needs to or wants to work in exactly the same way. And flexible working is really the opposite of that entire stance.
[Richard] There’s a lot of discussion at the moment around the four-day working week. So you know, in Iceland, I think up to 80% of people there are now work working four-day weeks. Even in Japan, where the corporate culture is very hardcore, the government are recommending organizations shift to a four-day working week. I don’t think that many have made the shift yet. And even even here in the UK, you know, lots of organizations are trying out four-day working weeks. What’s your position on that? What do you what do you think about the four day working week? [Gemma] Truthfully, I’m not really sure it’s the answer. I think it might be an answer for some companies and some organizations, but I think it’s likely to be highly context specific. I think there are a couple of issues with it for me. One is it just continues to reinforce that normal work is Monday to Friday 9-5, and therefore the answer is reducing work. And of course, if you say to somebody, would you like to work less for the same pay? I think there’ll be a queue, and I’ll be honest, I’ll be at the start of it. But I’m not sure it’s solving the right problem. I worry that the days that people do work, because of course, it’s not just work fewer hours, it actually assumes that you will continue to maintain the same productivity. So I worry that there’ll be a huge amount of pressure on people to continue to work longer hours and more and more intense days. IAlso the obvious question arises, where to part time workers fit into that, if I already work four days or three days? What does that mean for me? And I think it’s one of those things that looks like a really simple and easy solution, but actually could bring more challenges, and more questions, and maybe even more problems than it might solve
I think lots of organizations are probably thinking about it along with all the other different elements in terms of what hybrid working means. But I think a lot of us are still trying to define exactly what hybrid working means. And also, I think it raises challenges. And just if we think about inclusivity and hybrid working, just from my own personal experience, the shift to working from home because of the pandemic was actually massively positive from one dimension, because I’m part of a leadership team in Workday, around product marketing, and all of my peers are in the US. So I used to join meetings, I was the only one on Zoom, everyone else was in the room, and I felt really quite excluded. The playing field has been completely leveled.
There’s a real paradox around inclusion and flexible work, particularly remote work in that it has the power – the potential – to be a really positive thing for inclusion. And we know just as one example, that one of the causes of the gender pay gap is the fact that there is a lack of quality senior flexible work. We also know that there is a disability pay and employment gap. So on one hand, we can see the ability to open up the labour market to allow people to work around their other commitments, their lives, maybe even their health conditions. However, and I’m drawing here largely on research from before the pandemic, and often from purely remote teams as well, and that highlights another challenge that we’ve got at the moment. There are things we know about remote work before the pandemic; there are things we know about remote work during the pandemic. This idea of hybrid at scale has never really happened. So, a lot of things I’m going to say the next few minutes will be something that only future research can really tell us more about. But when it comes to inclusion, we know that in the past, when people work remotely, that can actually lead to out-of-sight-out-of-mind, because unconsciously, we tend to favour the people that we see most often, that we work most closely with. And there is research that says when people do work predominantly remotely against colleagues that are in-person and co-located, it can lead to negative career outcomes around things like progression and pay. I’m sure you may have seen some of the articles as well, where people are worrying actually, when you look at the intentions or the desires to work remotely across gender lines, women are saying that they would like to spend more of their time working from home compared to their male colleagues. Now, what could happen is that we end up with a bit of a gender divide with more men in the office, more women at home, and why are women doing that? Well, it’s because they are trying to structure their life around their domestic responsibilities and their childcare. So, there are real risks around around hybrid work and a lot of it will be in the design, how we implement it. And if we are aware of these potential issues, then we can put things in place now we can monitor and we can address quickly.