Research that makes a difference
What are the professional and personal consequences and effects of a four-day working week
Several Danish companies and organisations experiment with a four-day work week. But it is difficult to apply the experiences of individual companies to others, and we need more research into this field. What does it take from an employee to ”only" work 30 hours a week but deliver 37 hours of value? And who will you actually be on Fridays when you are not working? Michael Pedersen, Associate Professor at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, studies the professional as well as the personal consequences and effects of a four-day working week.
What has led you to work on this topic?
In 2017, I heard about IIH Nordic, a small IT company who had introduced a four-day work week. My initial interest was to understand how to go from working 37 hours to 30 hours a week and maintain a full salary. What does it take as a company, from management and from employees to make this change? Then I wanted to study why corona has generated an increased interest in the four-day work week. It has become a way to deal with the increasing challenges across all industries in terms of recruitment and talent retention.
What are your conclusions so far?
My research has focused on three things:
1. First, the importance of working with concrete work habits in everyday life when making a big change. For instance, some of these companies have introduced special focus time during the day or short meetings of a 20 to 40 minute duration to make sure that meetings are only held if the agenda is clear.
2. What it takes for employees to self-manage when they "only" work 30 hours but have to deliver 37 hours of value.
3. How employees spend their extended weekend. When you do not work on Fridays, who are you? Are you a consumer, do you educate yourself, do chores at home, establish a business or become a volunteer?
How is your knowledge relevant to society?
In general, my research says something about the importance of working with everyday habits and routines in major change projects. At times, change management focuses too much on the burning platforms and employees' motivation for change, however, they forget to focus on what we need to do differently in everyday life. Many companies with a four-day work week have had to work exactly with the specific organisation of everything from meetings to interruptions in order to change.
What consequences has your research had so far?
I have done a lot of presentations about the four-day work week that have inspired some companies to experiment with it. In addition, I have been used as an expert in three books about the four-day work week by Danish journalist Pernille Garde Abildgaard. They have become bestsellers, and I therefore hope that my research has influenced Abildgaard's readers.
What new societal issues has your research raised?
100 years ago, there was an intense discussion about whether to introduce a five-day work week instead of the six-day work week. The research into the four-day work week leads to a similar discussion. Why do we find it necessary to have a two-day weekend and a five-day work week? In addition, the research also says something about the importance of working with everyday habits in change management.
Read more about Michael Pedersen and his research here.