Four-day workweek becoming common at small businesses

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A clear champion has emerged in the movement toward a four-day workweek—small businesses.

Data released Tuesday by Gusto, a payroll software company, shows that nearly a fourth of small businesses specializing in technology and professional services are offering a four-day schedule or are considering implementing one.

“Remote companies are figuring out this flexibility question in an entirely new and intentional way,” said Liz Wilke, the principal economist at Gusto. She refers to small companies as a “testing ground” for different types of unconventional work arrangements.

The ability to offer workplace flexibility to employees isn’t just a luxury for small businesses. It can be make or break, especially for offices small enough that one employee’s bad performance can impact overall output, Wilke said. With rising pressure to return to in-office work and a rocky job market contributing to a burnout rate as high as 40% among desk workers, small businesses are leveraging relaxed work rules to boost productivity.

“Small businesses are really using flexibility as a way to keep people at their best,” said Wilke, who adds that autonomy can take many forms, including allowing staffers to choose when and where they work.

Even more notable, 40% of fully remote small businesses reported being “far above average” at building personal connections among workers, while just 33% of fully in-person and 24% of hybrid companies reported the same.

Bigger firms have tried to match the freedom of movement enjoyed by small business employees through “work from anywhere” weeks, which set aside a certain amount of time—usually two to four weeks—for staffers to conduct business from a location of choice. This practice is an echo of a perk widely offered by small, remote businesses, with one in five reporting an employee working outside of the country. Fully remote small businesses are also less inclined to set pay rates based on locations—even when hiring internationally.

Small businesses’ four-day workweek offerings haven’t yet begun to pay dividends in the form of greater retention. But as larger companies continue to harden their return-to-office mandates, the flexibility uniquely offered by small businesses might become increasingly attractive to job seekers.

Small companies that started in the past three years often have this level of flexibility—47% are hybrid and 31% are fully remote. Chances are that future enterprises will organize around a shortened workweek at conception, instead of adjusting retroactively.

“I’m glad that we’re finally moving past the discussion of whether to offer remote and hybrid work,” Wilke said. “And we’re finally getting into the interesting space of how to do remote and hybrid work.”

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