WTF   //   July 14, 2023

WTF is an ‘evolved workweek’?

The structure of the traditional workweek is no longer the universal blueprint it once was. It has evolved and divided into a myriad of different models, some more mainstream, others more fringe. But this so-called “evolved workweek” is now the new norm. And hybrid return-to-office mandates are unlikely to change that.

But what exactly does this look like in practice?

What exactly is an evolved workweek?

Whether it’s four-day weeks, compressed-hour weeks, summer Fridays, work-from-anywhere policies, hybrid models, or extra PTO terms, companies have been experimenting in earnest with various versions of an evolved workweek for the last six months, according to Molly Johnson Jones, CEO of Flexa, a job search platform for flexible roles.

“The talent attraction power of any form of an evolved workweek is obviously huge because you’re effectively giving someone extra time off every week,” Johnson Jones said. 

Four-day workweeks have garnered greater attention as more studies from mainly European countries find those arrangements to be successful, though they’re trickier to scale in larger organizations.

Four-and-a-half day weeks are becoming increasingly popular though, where employees can take off or shut their laptops on Friday afternoons. Flexa has used a 4.5 day schedule since the company’s launch, and said the eternal summer Fridays have proved beneficial for both the organization and its employees.

“No one is productive after 2 p.m. on Fridays,” Johnson Jones said.

Even before the pandemic, more than half of companies globally (55%) offered summer Fridays in 2019, according to data from Gartner. That’s a 43% increase from 2012.

The share of jobs offering summer Fridays on ZipRecruiter is up 121%, according to internal data from the hiring platform.

Evolved work weeks have helped Flexa recruit and retain its own employees.

“The talent attraction power of any form of an evolved work week is obviously huge, because you're effectively giving someone extra time off every week."
Molly Johnson Jones, CEO, Flexa.

Engagement is also higher, as employees feel they have enough time to truly unplug over the weekend and return recharged and ready to work.

What are some of the challenges?

Key challenges for those looking to implement evolved work weeks include getting management on board, and those every-other-week arrangements could be more palatable. 

“It feels like dipping the toe in the water rather than going immediately to four days,” Johnson Jones said. “You’re not stuck with it, if you decide to do it you can evolve it and change it and iterate.”

Another consideration companies need to make is whether everyone should be off at the same time. Some organizations may have to stagger time or days off depending on the nature of certain roles.

“They probably have customers and clients that still want to get a hold of employees and have answers resolved for those full five days."
ZipRecruiter’s vp of people, Marissa Morrison.

“They probably have customers and clients that still want to get a hold of employees and have answers resolved for those full five days,” said ZipRecruiter’s vp of people, Marissa Morrison.

Companies that adopt evolved work weeks need to “have the right protocols in place to make sure that if anything material happens, they still have some on-call support,” she said.

Are there any work-life boundary issues?

How strongly employers should enforce that time off in evolved work weeks and new flexible arrangements is an emerging dilemma. Without clear mandates to log off, workers won’t be able to truly unplug and enjoy that time to themselves, experts have said. 

Extending summer Fridays will be likely more feasible for U.S.-based companies than implementing true four-day work weeks.

“American culture is very workaholic in lots of ways,” said Cary Cooper, professor of organizational psychology and health at the University of Manchester. “They may go for it after every country in the world does it,” he said. 

Some 80% of job seekers on ZipRecruiter said they prefer roles with a four-day workweek, according to a report from the hiring platform covering data from the last quarter of 2022. About 30% said they’d take a second job while 18% said they’d learn a new skill if it allowed them to work on that schedule.