“The five-day week is a nineteenth-century construct that is not fit for purpose in the twenty-first century.” – Andrew Barnes, author of “The 4-Day Week: How the Flexible Work Revolution Can Increase Productivity, Profitability and Well-Being, and Create a Sustainable Future.

A strong economy and a successful business rely on optimizing productivity and generating profit. Recent years have shown a shift in our culture where we are now more fully recognizing that all of this must not come at the expense of work-life balance. 

While certainly not new to the Canadian business landscape (Vancouver’s David Suzuki Foundation has had a four-day work week since 1990), a compressed work week has recently gained significant traction.

Does a compressed work week suit small businesses?

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In Canada, while no law requires employers to offer a compressed work week, the evidence from several studies suggests that it can benefit both employees and employers has prompted many companies to adopt this type of work schedule. People are looking for more value in the benefit they receive from their employers. Ping-pong tables may seem fun, but not necessarily at the expense of free time.

Let’s explore how a compressed work week can function for small businesses in Canada and the issues and implications for business owners considering this change.

How Do Four-Day Work Weeks Work?

There are various ways to implement this type of work arrangement in Canada. Think of them as shortened work weeks. 

For some businesses, a four-day work week is in play. It entails a 32-hour work schedule that maintains the same productivity, pay, and benefits as a standard five-day work week. Employees receive 100% of their compensation package, give 100% productivity, but work 80% of their time.

Many companies opting for a compressed work week constrain the five conventional daily eight hours into four longer 10-hour workdays. Depending on the company’s requirements and employee preferences, some may work from Monday to Thursday, while others may opt for a different arrangement.

That permits workers to have an extra day off every week. Business owners need to acquaint themselves with the specific regulations of their province under Canadian labour laws.

However, it’s worth noting it may leave a company understaffed on days when most others are working. While a flexible third day off may suit individual employees, it could pose team challenges.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Four-Day Work Week for Business Owners?

Businesses typically prioritize the profitability of their operations as they should. However, granting employees more control over their time could yield significant benefits for Canadian small business owners. A 2022 trial revealed that 92% of participating companies plan to continue with a four-day work week. 

Gains a company can expect when instituting compressed work weeks include:

  • Increased productivity has been reported due to the urgency to complete tasks efficiently.
  • A boost in sales.
  • Improved employee morale, job satisfaction, and loyalty can be gained by having an extra day to rest and recharge.
  • A reduction of employee stress and burnout. 
  • It’s an attractive perk when hiring new employees. A Canadian recruiting platform reports that 93% of respondents are interested in a shorter work week, thus helping companies attract a larger pool of potential candidates and retain top talent in a competitive market.
  • Lower operating costs for physical offices (unless the company is entirely remote).

Despite these advantages, there are a few potential challenges to consider:

  • Adjustments of workloads and schedules will require effective communication and coordination among team members.
  • There can be increased costs for businesses, such as overtime pay and shift premiums, and the potential for lost productivity. 
  • Understaffing and reduced customer service hours can affect customer expectations.
  • Compressed work weeks may reduce flexibility in employees’ schedules, particularly those with childcare or other commitments.
  • Finding qualified employees willing to work compressed schedules may be more challenging.

What Are the Benefits of a Four-Day Work Week for Employees?

For an employee, a compressed four-day work week can make room for personal priorities. It provides employees with the following:

  • Increased time for personal matters that promote a healthy work-life balance to reduce stress levels and burnout (courtesy of our always-on work culture) and improve well-being. A study from 2022 found a 71% reduction in burnout and a 39% reduction in stress after a four-day work week trial run.
  • Increased job satisfaction and feeling more motivated and productive.
  • Reduced commuting time and savings on costs.
  • Time to spend with family, friends, and pets.
  • Caregiving of loved ones.
  • Attending appointments for medical or dental needs.
  • Personal development and education.
  • More time to engage in travel, hobbies, and home maintenance.
  • A shorter work week may also have environmental benefits. With one less day at the office, reduced commuting and traffic congestion can have a positive environmental impact.

How to Establish a Four-Day Work Week at Your Small Business

Adjusting our perspective and methods toward work is vital when establishing a four-day work week as the norm.  

Here are 13 steps to effectively implement a condensed work week:

  1. Assess feasibility and alignment with business operations and customer demands.
  2. Engage with your team for feedback on productivity and customer service impact.
  3. Emphasize outcome-based measurements, maintaining current pay and benefits.
  4. Trust your workers to focus on achieving results instead of the hours worked.
  5. Research the benefits and challenges of compressed work weeks.
  6. Start with a trial period, collect feedback, and evaluate the impact. 
  7. Develop a clear implementation plan addressing workflow changes and communication channels to ensure your business is prepared for the change and can minimize any impacts.
  8. Maintain transparency and open communication with employees, achieving employee buy-in and maintaining a positive work environment.
  9. Set clear, achievable goals within the shorter work week.
  10. Prioritize asynchronous work and convey that responding later is acceptable to help reduce the pressure of responding to others immediately.
  11. Adjust company culture, limit work-based social events, and reduce employees’ time in “this-should-have-been-an-email” meetings. Make it easier for employees to spend less time on email and messaging apps and more time being productive.
  12. Take into account the impact on your industry or clients. For example, implementing a compressed work week may be difficult if you work in retail or customer service-oriented businesses with specific operating hours.
  13. Be flexible and make necessary adjustments along the way.

How Does a Four-Day Work Week Affect Business Insurance?

For small Canadian businesses, insurance is vital in guarding against potential risks like property damage and liability claims. It is essential that when transitioning to a compressed schedule, there is a thorough review of your business insurance policies.

It’s worth noting that a four-day week may affect insurance coverage and associated risks, which are crucial for business owners to protect their assets. A business insurance policy is used as an umbrella to describe common types of insurance business owners require to cover third-party liability lawsuits or claims.

Before implementing a compressed work week, explore the various components of your insurance policy and how it affects your coverage. 

Here are some examples of why this is a necessary step to protect your business:

  • General Liability Insurance: Evaluate the risks that may have changed due to accidents or incidents related to the modified schedule. A business with a compressed work week requires being diligent about the upkeep of the premises.If maintenance and upkeep fall behind schedule due to the reduced hours, that may pose an increased risk to clients visiting your workplace or to other companies connected to your commercial space, especially during the extended vacant hours.
  • Commercial Property Insurance: Businesses may need to increase coverage for property damage. Companies with fewer employees in the office may be at a higher risk for theft or vandalism due to decreased foot traffic during condensed hours.

Protecting Your Assets: Get Business Insurance

After carefully considering the pros and cons, assessing eligibility, and implementing effective communication and planning, embracing a compressed work week can transform your business, leading to a happier workforce, increased employee retention, and long-term success.

When assessing the potential impact of a four-day work week on your insurance, it is crucial to seek the guidance of a business insurance broker from Zensurance.

Fill out our online application for a free quote, and let us help you find the right insurance coverage for your business.

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About the Author: Ryan Insalaco

Ryan Insalaco is a licensed broker and Practice Lead, Digital Solutions with a background in medical malpractice insurance at Zensurance.