What a Four-Day Workweek Means for Facility Managers

10 questions to ask before implementing a four-day workweek.

By Stormy Friday, Contributing Writer  

From the United Kingdom to New Zealand, countries across the globe are experimenting with the four-day workweek — and finding success.  

In a previous article, I discussed the pros and cons these companies have found by reducing the work week to only four days. While there is excellent feedback on both sides of the issue, surprisingly none of the studies include research on how a reduction in the five-day workweek impacts services performed by facilities management organizations.  

The studies are silent on the impact of a reduced work week on facility services to employees working in buildings and remotely, and facility management operations and maintenance functions performed on building infrastructures.  

The implications for facilities management functions were not included in discussions before experiments were conducted or when results from changing the workweek were analyzed. Corporate executives around the world missed a key component that wasn’t factored into the decision-making process about restructuring the workweek. 

Facility management practitioners shouldn’t be surprised by the corporate oversight of not including this industry in the discussions regarding a new workweek strategy.  

Looking back at what happened during and immediately after the pandemic, most companies did not involve facility managers in the early discussions regarding remote work and then the hybrid work models. There were minimal conversations about the implications for those working in the building. Conversation occurred on the real estate side once the need for companies to downsize the real estate portfolio became evident, but most companies failed to address the maintenance and operations issues associated with a workforce that didn’t always require an on-site office.  

It was far too often that facility managers struggled to develop a plan for keeping corporate buildings in top form when no one was in an office and the funding priorities were not on building performance. There was minimal regard for the fact that facility management departments needed to maintain infrastructure systems regardless of building occupancy to maintain their integrity and prevent failures. 

Aside from the service and maintenance issues, there are challenges for facility management staff. Unlike most of their co-workers that are working remotely or coming into their offices on a sporadic basis, a facility workforce needs to be on-site all the time. There is not much opportunity for staff to work a four-day week or come to their offices on a part-time basis when buildings require full-time maintenance and service. 

Join the discussion 

The topic of the four-day workweek is not going away. To ensure decisions are not made for them, facility managers should take a bold step forward and insert themselves in the deliberations process to create the appropriate framework for success.  

Where managers can be essential to the decision-making process surrounding the four-day workweek is helping senior executives sort through the critical steps required before adopting any work week changes. Facility managers may be able to guide senior executives through a process that answers the following questions: 

1. What is the rationale behind a four-day workweek and what does the company want to achieve? Is the corporate strategy for changing the workweek designed to improve the health and well-being of employees or intended as a cost-cutting measure and reduction in staff? 

2. What is the potential impact on external customers of a shortened workweek? Will customers be able to access all the services they need during an abbreviated workweek, and will there be sufficient customer service coverage for issues, problems, and concerns? 

3. Are policy, wage and hour issues involved in a workweek change? Has the company studied state/local/federal regulations and are there any unanticipated consequences for changing the work week structure? 

4. Is the company willing to transition to an outcome-based model of work for the shortened workweek to succeed? Has the company considered the change management philosophy that needs to accompany a shorter workweek? The emphasis needs to be on the result rather than the process for getting there. Is there a high enough trust factor within the company culture to make this switch?

5. Is a pilot four-day workweek possible before it is implemented company-wide? Has the company considered initiating the change within a smaller segment of the company as a pilot test? Would it be less disruptive to stagger or phase in a four-day workweek? 

6. What facility management services will be affected for employees? How are employees going to react if they need assistance from the facility management and maintenance staff and the department is part of the experiment?  

7. Will the integrity of the building(s) be compromised without the facility department’s attention to operations and maintenance in certain areas that are unoccupied during the work week? Is the company willing to invest in continued operations and maintenance for components of buildings that will not be utilized on a regular basis? Have the cost implications been explored and evaluated? 

8. Does the company have the right skills for an outcome-based model of work? Has a work force analysis been performed to determine where there are skills gaps that will impede the success of a four-day workweek? Is the corporate culture such that individual and team skills are sufficiently strong for independent work? 

9. Is the company willing to “cut the meetings” to maximize employee’s time working? Part of the success of the four-day workweek is restructuring activities such as meetings that consume productive employee time. Can the concept of fewer meetings work within the company? 

10. Will the company accept negative feedback and data that does not support the change to a four-day workweek? What will the company do if employee and external customer data do not support a four-day workweek? Is the company willing to invest in a reversal if the experiment does not achieve the results targeted? 

Stormy Friday is founder and president of The Friday Group, an international facilities services consulting firm. She is a member of the ProFMI Commission, a governance body that serves as an advisory committee for the Professional Facility Management Institute's (ProFMI) activities. 

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  posted on 8/30/2023   Article Use Policy

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