Could the four-day week actually work?

Last month, over 3,000 employees working across 70 UK businesses joined a nationwide six-month experiment to trial the success of a four-day working week.

During this trial, companies ranging from the largest corporation to the tiniest coffee shop will allow their staff to work 80% of their normal hours for 100% of their pay.

In return, staff must commit to the same productivity levels as they’d have achieved on their previous hours, with researchers closely monitoring productivity levels throughout the experiment.

British workers have been pushing for a four-day working week since before the pandemic, though long periods of working remotely and the work-life improvements whilst working from home has accelerated demand.

And we’re not alone; employees around the world seek similar opportunities.

 

A global movement

Iceland ran the same trial between 2015 and 2019, resulting in nearly 90% of its working population now having reduced hours or other benefits. Scotland, Wales and the USA are pushing for similar trials, while Spain and Australia are about to embark on their own four-day experiments.

Businesses have traditionally fought against the concept of reduced working hours, fearing a drop in productivity – but in the post-pandemic economy, the goalposts have changed.

Not only did productivity during the remote working era increase, but 83% of Brits said they were happier since having the opportunity to spend more time at home.

Work-life balance has risen up the corporate wish list as workers have increasingly struggled to manage childcare, family obligations, health and wellbeing and the rising cost of living.

It’ll be interesting to see whether this trial leads to a longer-term change in corporate culture – and a healthier, happier and more productive workforce.

While the way companies structure the four-day week can vary depending on their needs, a 32-hour week covering agreed days (arranged to provide five-day office and service cover as needed) seems to be the standard approach.

But can a four-day week really work? Is there any chance employers’ fears about low productivity could come to light, and how will they manage challenges such as office and customer service cover?

Here, we take a brief glimpse at the main pros and cons:

 

The pros and cons

Paradoxically, the greatest benefit is increased productivity. Evidence strongly suggests that productivity levels rise sustainably while employees are working reduced hours, purely because they’re more willing to put in extra effort to maintain their ‘free day’.

Overworked staff are less productive. Having a longer weekend reduces stress, improves time management, increases job satisfaction and enhances company loyalty. It also allows people to spend more time with their family or doing things that support their wellbeing.

In essence, it’s a win-win for businesses and their staff. And in an age where finding the right talent can be a challenging process, finding ways to improve the experience for existing staff is a no-brainer.

There’s also the environmental implication. Businesses are under more pressure than ever before to demonstrate corporate social responsibility around reducing their carbon footprint.

And with thousands fewer cars on the roads for just one day each week, carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses would be greatly reduced, while staff would save on fuel costs.

And the negatives? Some studies have suggested improved employee satisfaction can result in reduced customer satisfaction, or potentially be more expensive for employers – yet both of these issues can be mitigated with the right planning and systems in place.

A&D Recruitment are specialists in recruitment for the renewable energy and building services industries. For more tips, visit our blog section or contact us today for a friendly, informal chat about how A&D Recruitment could help you fill – or find – your next role.

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