Work

66% of workers polled want a 4-day workweek—why just 17% of their employers offer it

Caiaimage/John Wildgoose | Getty Images

Trendy offices with beanbag chairs and ping pong tables won't keep workers from quitting in a tight labor market. According to a new survey, the most coveted work perks let employees control their time — and not all employers have caught up to the demand.

Human resources consulting firm Robert Half surveyed 1,500 workers and 600 HR managers across the country to see which benefits, perks and incentives employees want most and where employers miss the mark.

Overwhelmingly, employees surveyed asked for perks that helped them control their time. "In the past few years, there's been a lot of employee interest in perks that offer greater control over where and when work is done, such as flexible schedules, compressed workweeks and telecommuting options," Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half tells CNBC Make It.

Despite this demand, employers have been slow to meet these needs. While the survey finds that a whopping 88 percent of employees wanted a flexible work schedule, only just 62 percent of their employers offer this kind of flexibility.

The desire for a compressed workweek revealed one of the survey's biggest gaps between what employees want and what their bosses provide. Approximately 66 percent of workers said they wanted to work less than five days a week but just 17 percent offer that option.

The tight labor market could force gaps like these to narrow. U.S. workers continue to quit their jobs at some of the highest rates in 18 years. Last year, there were more unfilled jobs in the United States than there were unemployed workers.

Says McDonald, "Besides salary, employees are considering factors such as perks, benefits and incentives when deciding whether to join or stay with a company. And with competition for skilled talent remaining high, today's professionals have more options than ever in these areas."

"Savvy employers are catching on to the fact that employees are increasingly demanding better work-life balance and the opportunity to get work done at non-traditional places and times," adds Jim Link, chief human resources officer (North America) at global recruitment agency Randstad. "The four-day workweek is a perfect example of that."

Even billionaire businessman Richard Branson has predicted the end of the five-day workweek saying, "The idea of working five days a week with two day weekends and a few weeks of holiday each year has become ingrained in society. But it wasn't always the case, and it won't be in the future." Branson argues that technology will allow workers to be more productive and to work more flexibly.

"Offering employees a designated time to take care of personal responsibilities alleviates worker stress, allows them to focus their attention on key projects while in the office and also leads to a decrease in unplanned absences," says McDonald.

To be sure, compressed weeks work better for certain types of companies and positions than others, McDonald says. "The nature of some businesses require staff coverage and customer service during key hours."

Still, some experts say this more flexible future is not far away. "I believe that in this century, we can win a four-day working week, with decent pay for everyone," Frances O'Grady, general secretary of British labor union organization Trades Union Congress predicted in September.

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