The four day week: getting productivity right

The four-day working week has once again fuelled public debate with more than 30 UK companies are to take part in a trial to reduce working hours, without impact productivity. But productivity is complex and solving the ‘productivity puzzle’ has long been a challenge for economists, business leaders, and politicians.

At Salesforce, we know that the 9-to-5 workday is no more in today’s all-digital, work-from-anywhere world, which means it no longer makes sense to expect employees to work an eight-hour shift to do their jobs successfully.  

Diversity in approach is critical, and the pandemic has shown us that a flexible approach that encompasses employee feedback can help staff retention, employee wellbeing and improves productivity

Pros and cons of a four-day week:

The four-day week – does it really work?

Four-day week is affordable and could boost productivity, finds report

Does a four-day week undermine true flexibility?

To address this, we’ve created a model called Success From Anywhere, which is all about embracing flexible ways of working while also prioritising togetherness and connection, no matter where employees sit. Our employee surveys show us that productivity is up: individual and team productivity increases by 16% and 13%, respectively.

HR, culture and people leaders are increasingly understanding that work is now something you do, not somewhere you go and as we look to the future, a company’s digital HQ is more important than your physical HQ. It’s the technology underpinning your company.

I also believe it’s important to test new approaches to work. We recently trialed our first "Async Week" where employees cancelled routine meetings to create space for more deep, focused work. Over 20,000 employees participated and 80% liked it, with 81% of employees saying they would like to repeat it quarterly. 

Ultimately, flexibility is key. We’re empowering teams to decide how, when, and where they work. This includes how many days a week they come into the office and what kind of work they’ll continue to do at home.

Teams can also decide how they communicate and what behaviours are most important to them. For instance, my team has “no meeting Fridays” and monthly wellbeing days

While employees have the flexibility to choose where and how they work, I feel there is still a very important need for physical space.

We’re focused on bringing people together safely and the way our employees use office space will continue to evolve as we come back. 

We’re experimenting with new flex spaces, adding more booths, communal tables, and focus pods for connection and innovation. We’ll continue to observe behaviours, listen to our employees, and try innovative approaches like leveraging sensor data to inform decisions as we go. 

As we look ahead at potential new working models, it is our responsibility as HR leaders to empower our people to redefine the workplace on their own terms, and help them to be successful on the schedule that works best for them and their teams. 


Terri Moloney is senior director of employee success at Salesforce