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A recent poll shows that seven out of 10 Canadians would prefer working a 10-hour day if it led to a four-day workweek. (Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

Canada | Trends

More Canadians warming up to the idea of a four-day shortened workweek

Even with a longer workday, a recent poll shows seven out of 10 Canadians want a condensed workweek

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Flex time is an enticing incentive for employees. And a growing majority of Canadians are in favour of working longer days if it leads to a condensed workweek. A recent poll by Angus Reid shows that seven out of 10 Canadians would prefer working a 10-hour day if it led to a four-day workweek, up from 25 per cent in 1981.

“Today’s professionals are busier than ever, both personally and professionally,” says Derek Wood, regional manager for Robert Half. “Many value benefits that support work-life balance, which means a condensed workweek can help promote employee wellness and morale.”

The desire for a shortened workweek, despite longer work days, polled the same across four generations, according to the 2018 study. “Having an extra day of the weekend to take care of personal obligations means more time to relax, ultimately helping manage stress levels and keep staff positive and engaged,” says Wood.

Giving employees control over their schedules is a strong recruitment and retainment tool. Wood also notes there is a cost-time savings perk, too. “Businesses can save on real estate costs and employees can save time and money having offices open four days a week rather than five and paying for one fewer commuting day,” he says.

Moving to a four-day workweek is something employers know people want, but are sometimes limited in how it can be offered, says Linda Duxbury, work-life balance expert and professor with Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business. “They realize they need it,” she says. “So a lot of organizations are more willing to offer flex time over compressed workweeks.”

For some hours-based professions, such as law, even if the desire is there, a condensed workweek isn’t always realistic, she says. For those professions, removing a workday could just mean the same amount of work with less pay or recognition, especially when partners look to hours billed as a promotable skill.

But there are major firms trying to navigate these waters. Deloitte Canada recently launched its own condensed workweek pilot program in addition to a flex schedule. The program, summerTIME, is running for the season and allows certain employees to work a four-day workweek at their own discretion, only after ensuring all deadlines and client commitments are met.

“It is not just about having Fridays off in the summer, but more about understanding your work commitments and your commitments to your teams and clients and structuring your flexibility accordingly,” says Craig Irwin, partner in Deloitte Canada’s audit practice.

Although the firm is trying to offer flexible options for its employees, Irwin acknowledges there are hurdles and this arrangement doesn’t work for all, especially in a team- and client-focused environment.

“This makes flexible work arrangements not just a personal decision, but one that can impact an entire group of people if not done in a thoughtful and professional manner,” he says. “In such an ideal scenario, as long as work is delivered and performance is achieved, it should not matter what the work arrangement is. We are not there yet.”

What matters most across the board is setting expectations to ensure success, says Wood of Robert Half. “Businesses considering any form of unique work arrangement, including a shortened workweek, should establish clear expectations and productivity goals and communicate these requirements regularly with their staff so everyone is on the same page, and on top of their workload.”