Workers strike a bargain with CEOs: Flexibility over a 4-day workweek

August 9, 2022, 7:59 PM UTC
Businesswoman working on a laptop
Fewer workers are pushing for a four-day work week.
Getty Images

Trends cycle through quickly these days, even in the corporate world. Less in vogue than it was only a month ago: the four-day workweek. 

Flexa Careers, a job directory for flexible positions, analyzed over 36,000 user searches on its site to discover the biggest priorities among job seekers. It found that they’ve lost some interest in “compressed hours,” defined as splitting the same number of working hours across fewer days. 

From June to July, the number of job hunters looking for a shortened workweek decreased by 20%. To be fair, this follows a 14% uptick in June, when the U.K.’s new trial of the four-day workweek led to a heightened interest in the compressed schedule.

But less demand for a flexible workweek doesn’t mean that flexibility isn’t still top of mind for candidates everywhere. It’s more that employees have realized that they don’t need to reinvent the wheel if they’re enjoying flexible hours while working remotely. 

As companies offer more flexibility around when their employees work, workers have been craving compressed hours less, Molly Johnson-Jones, CEO of Flexa Careers, tells Fortune.

“More businesses are allowing staff to set their own hours, or giving complete freedom outside of ‘core’ times when everyone has to be online,” says Johnson-Jones. “This means people are finding working rhythms that suit them, which is reducing the need to seek out a formal compressed hours structure.” 

People still love a four-day workweek, though

As employees pushed for a shortened workweek over the past two years, the number of employers offering a four-day schedule doubled since 2020, according to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, program director at a nonprofit 4 Day Week Global, in May.

Early results from the U.K.’s four-day workweek trial have started to come out, revealing that despite some organizational hiccups, many workers enjoyed the new work-life balance that the compressed schedule offered. 

But with 95% of knowledge workers wanting flexibility, CEOs have started to recognize that the workweek will never look the same if they want to fight for new talent. 

“For us, the nine-to-five was on life support before the pandemic,” Steve Pickle, Salesforce’s EVP of employee success operations, told Fortune in March. “The pandemic took it off life support and put it right into the grave. It’s still dead, and we’re in a far better place.” 

The company has since embraced schedules wherein employees are not bound to coming into the office the entire week or working a specific eight-hour day. 

CEO of J.C. Penney, Marc Rosen, also noticed the heightened need for flexibility in the store’s distribution centers and mentioned that the company is looking for options to swap out schedules last minute. “Flexibility is critical right now,” he said at a Fortune CEO Roundtable sponsored by McKinsey last month.

As workers gain the upper hand in dictating their own hours across a five-day workweek, compressed hours may no longer matter as much.

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