Heigh-Ho, It’s Off to Work They Go

Disney Bob Iger is enforcing an in-person four-day work week. (Courtesy of Twitter.)

Disney Bob Iger is enforcing an in-person four-day work week. (Courtesy of Twitter.)

Disney’s CEO Bob Iger has called for starting a four-day work week starting on March 1 at the Disney headquarters in Burbank, Calif. Iger stated that moving to a longer in-person work week would raise creativity, which is the “heart and soul of who we are and what we do at Disney.” While an increase in creativity would revitalize Disney from the slump its been in last year when the “company’s stock fell 44% in 2022 — its worst year since ‘Herbie Rides Again’ was in theaters,” ultimately, Disney’s work quota increase creates more risks and seems like a bad move for business unless other factors are taken into consideration.

Regarding the benefits, Iger’s decision does have some credit to it. Research shows that face-to-face interactions have “more spontaneity” and involve more people talking to others they usually wouldn’t, which promotes creativity. In a sense, I find this relatable, especially as I’ve found coming back to school in person more engaging than on Zoom. Coming back to school in person has also allowed me to be able to focus more in my classes and think creatively by being able to interact more easily with classmates. 

But while this aspect of Iger’s decision may be advantageous, being remote also has its pros, one of which is introducing more diversity. Women and people of color prefer remote work rather than in-person interactions. Remote work is also a key alternative to the other problems that Iger’s decisions may bring on: the traffic-heavy commute to headquarters and the recent COVID-19 spike. 

When Disney employees were asked, one of the largest problems with in-person work was the commute. Disney’s offices are located in “traffic-heavy” southern California which would include an unpleasant commute on busy freeways during rush hour. Iger’s decision for a work quota increase would translate to more commuting for Disney’s 200,000 workers. The stress from the commute could well overshadow the benefit from in-person interactions increasing creativity. When workers have to take into account commute time, length and traffic, they may have to shift their schedules dramatically in order to come into work on time. This consideration would not only affect an employee’s schedule, but also their sleep, health and free time. These negative effects on an employee’s life can prevent the creativity that may come from interactions and may even do the opposite and decrease creativity in the office. 

There has also been a recent COVID-19 spike, and an increase in work quota can lead to more employees becoming sick. In-person office work can also lead to more people spreading the disease, which would cause more employees to take time off work to recover. An increase in more employees taking time off to recover would halt creative progress as well as morale. Disney would also face other problems from competing companies if they undertook this decision. Other companies could keep their three-day work weeks and entice Disney employees to come over. Taking into consideration the hardships that a work quota increase would give to employees, Disney workers can be persuaded to work for other companies where there are less of these stressors.  

If Disney wanted to reduce the potential of employees leaving for other companies, they would have to consider the hardships that employees would face. Considering the commute, if Disney gave more flexible starting times to employees, this would reduce much of the stress that could arise from heavy traffic. Regarding the recent spike in COVID-19, Disney could implement more safety and health measures such as more hand sanitizers around the office, better ventilation or providing more masks for employees. Disney could also reduce general stress that can come from a work quota increase by promoting more self-care practices in the workplace such as exercise, healthier eating habits or light exercise. 

Overall, Iger’s decision for a four-day work week can aid in increasing productivity and creativity, but there are risks from a heavy traffic commute and the recent surge of COVID-19.

Zoom and remote work provides a great alternative but in order for Disney to make the best of a four day work week, Iger and other company officials  should consider employee concerns to make workers more comfortable. Such a consideration would raise productivity, creativity and morale.