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July 8, 2022

TGIT? The future of the work week

A shift toward a four-day work week needs to be accompanied by a serious rethink of the employee experience.

Even as Elon Musk garners headlines (shocking, we know) for ordering Tesla workers back to the office, and insisting only “exceptional contributors” at Twitter could work remotely, a serious conversation is unfolding about the future of the 40-hour work week.

This article from Fast Company traces the evolution of the work week, from the Industrial Revolution to the current reexamination spurred by the pandemic. As part of the rethink, the article points to the new bill in California that would reset the official work week to 32 hours for large employers. (At least eight other countries have officially made a similar shift already).

Meanwhile, Harvard Business Review has some grass-is-always-greener advice for leaders considering the move, warning that reducing work hours could be a simplistic answer that, unsupported by other measures, could fail to address the problem of overwork.

The Cognizant Take

We explored the potential for a shorter work week, along with myriad other topics, in a recent ebook. Cognizant’s Mark Taylor, a globally recognized leader in the Experience field, sees the issue through the lens of the employee experience.

While everybody’s talking about how employee experience is evolving, Taylor says, few are getting it right. It’s a complicated, multi-dimensional problem that must be addressed in a consolidated and consistent way. There is no silver bullet, shorter working week included (as demonstrated by France, which introduced the 35-hour work week in 1998).

The ultimate endgame is employee engagement, bringing your teams with you on a purposeful journey, Taylor says, enabling their own professional (and personal) development and making them your biggest advocates in the market for new talent.

From Cognizant’s extensive research and from work we’ve done with clients, these five guidelines can set businesses on the path to a better employee experience:

  1. Understand what employees are looking for. The results will often surprise you; employees are generally more focused on relational factors than transactional ones. But the important thing is to not assume but ask.

  2. Use a detailed journey map to understand how your employees are spending their time across both high-value and mundane tasks that could be automated.

  3. Analyze the employee onboarding journey. Get this right, and you will retain more of your teams for longer than the competition. (Spoiler alert: Very few companies do this well; across the board, businesses are seeing an uptick in year-one attrition.)

  4. Recalibrate your employee learning and development program. Correctly designed, structured and communicated, professional development opportunities are a key driver of attraction and retention.

  5. Consider supporting technologies, including collaboration tools, knowledge management and enterprise mobile apps, and review your technology-related policies. Even highly engaged employees who feel they don’t have good tech enablement will quickly lose engagement.

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