Survey says: Workers will work longer hours for a four-day week

Credit: Francis Scialabba

By: Susanna Vogel | Morning Brew | Oct 20, 2021

The promise of a long weekend gets most of us giddier than a PSL, Target run, and sweater weather combined (what? We’re pumped for fall). So it’s no surprise that employees are overwhelmingly in favor of making every weekend a long weekend. And according to an exclusive survey conducted by Harris Poll for HR Brew, most employed Americans are so eager to elongate their weekends that they’re willing to put more hours into a four-day work week.

Could the four-day work week be the ultimate employee retention strategy? Only one way to find out!

Trying to assess the perception and impact of HR policies can be a murky business. To make it easier, HR Brew partnered with Harris Poll to survey a representative sample of 1,089 employed Americans about hot topics in the workplace. Survey says:

  • Four day for all. A large majority (83%) of American workers would be in favor of a four-day work week. They’re willing to work harder to get an extra weekend day: 87% would work longer hours daily to get a four-day week. They will not, however, accept pay cuts: 59% have no interest in four-day weeks if it means a smaller paycheck.
  • Diversity? Idk. A startling finding: Only 13% of workers say their employers have taken a step to expand diversity initiatives in some way. Nearly half report no effort to improve diversity (49%), and almost four in 10 workers have, frankly, no clue how leadership is addressing the problem (38%). If you’re an executive who’s spent serious cash on diversity initiatives, this isn’t what you want to hear. It points to a lack of internal communication about diversity policies and programs.

Cynthia Pong, a career coach for women of color and founder of consultancy Embrace Change, explained why this could be a serious problem down the line. “Retention, retention, retention,” she said, when asked why robust and well-communicated diversity initiatives are critical. “Companies are hemorrhaging women of color and people of color. Employees are voting with their feet.”

  • Privacy, please. When it comes to trusting employers with data and handling workplace complaints, the younger folk split from their elders. Gen Z  takes a hard pass on employee surveillance: They are less likely than any other age group to support monitoring employees’ behavior at work. Across the board, Gen Z is about 20% less likely than millennials to favor employee surveillance techniques, including monitoring building access, social media activity, and internal communications.

Gen Z is also significantly more skeptical of HR’s ability to resolve harassment complaints: Only 52% trust HR to field harassment concerns. In contrast, 77% of employees in other age groups think HR is up to the job.

  • Make moves. Not all groups are participating in “The Great Resignation” equally. Gen Z (66%) and millennials (63%) who are not satisfied with their companies’ back-to-work policies are more likely to want to GTFO of their current work situation. Only 33% of Gen X and 17% of Baby Boomers feel the same.

This isn’t exactly groundbreaking—according to a CareerBuilder analysis of résumé data, the younger generations have always been more likely to bop from job to job: In comparison with Baby Boomers, who stay at a position for an average of over eight years, millenials and Gen Z tend to leave jobs after roughly two. However, the pandemic exacerbated the differences.

Sara Skirboll, VP at CareerBuilder, explained to HR Brew why millennials are leaving: “In the wake of the pandemic and months of uncertainty, high workloads and hiring freezes, millennials are rethinking their work-life balances and taking advantage of the fact that they are in demand as mid-level employees, especially with about 72 million millennials in the US, this generation is a huge part of the working population.”

  • WFH = Waiting for HR. By October, most respondents (75%) had excavated their hard pants from the closet and refreshed their Spotify commute playlists in order to return to the office at least part-time. As for the 25% still remote? For most, having a toddler-free workday remains a distant daydream: 71% of remote employed American surveyed don’t have set plans to go back into work.
  • Sensible on Safety. Great news for HR teams that have been working night and day to develop Covid policies: It hasn’t been for naught. The majority of Americans trust HR to have their best interests in mind (72%) and an overwhelming majority trust HR to handle Covid safety (81%).

That said, handling Covid is tricky, and it’s hard to please everybody: 62% of in-office or hybrid workers have some gripes about being back in the office. They point to fears of spreading Covid (42%), fear of unvaccinated colleagues (30% of vaccinated in-office workers), and frustration over commuting (32%) as the source for their displeasure.

  • Vexxed by vaccines. According to a SHRM September survey, most Americans (60%) support vaccine mandates. Still, a vocal minority holds out and could be willing to lose their jobs to stick to their guns: According to the Harris Poll data, 12% of workers who are unhappy about returning to work are uninterested in complying with vaccine mandates. SHRM found nearly 60% of US workers who are not fully vaccinated are unlikely to get vaccinated even after employer mandates. This unwillingness has led to waves of involuntary terminations (and subsequent legal challenges) and resignations across industries, from airlines to healthcare systems to city employees. Employers can anticipate their mandates being met with a small, but significant, percentage of their workforce bidding them adieu.

Zoom Out: In Covid times, worker attitudes change at the pace of viral TikTok challenges: Each day, there’s something new. But some numbers don’t seem so fleeting. According to these responses, there’s daylight between what HR’s doing to tackle diversity and what employees understand.

This matters, because Gen Z, who are already a flight risk, highly value diversity: According to data from Tallo, 87% of Gen Z considers DE&I at work “extremely important.” Without revamped communication, Gen Z won’t trust HR enough to stick around.—SV

Read the full story at Morning Brew.