Is a 4-day week the way to go?

Is a 4-day week the way to go?

 25 Mar 2022

After trials of a 4-day working week in Iceland were deemed an overwhelming success, with productivity either the same or improved, trials are now being run in a number of other countries including the UK.

Around 30 British companies will be running a pilot scheme, led by the 4 Day Week Global campaign, for six months before assessing results.

 

So what’s it all about?

The 4-day working week is a reduction of hours in the working week to a 4 day equivalent (usually 40 to 32 hours) without the loss of pay and benefits.  Although some companies are trialling a shorter working day over 5 days, most will instead offer an additional day off which can be either attached to the traditional weekend or during the week depending on business needs.

 

Why do it?

We have all seen the benefits of hybrid working over the last couple of years. The majority of us have a much improved work/life balance.

A reduction in commuting has meant more time and money to spend doing the things we enjoy. This in turn has improved engagement while at work, and the vast majority of employers have agreed that there has been little or no impact in productivity.

So, can we go a step further? The introduction of 4-day week could have a  hugely positive impact on physical and mental health, giving us more time to manage outside responsibilities as well as enjoying leisure activities. Just living a less frenetic lifestyle could make a massive difference to our general well-being and ability to focus.

 

Benefits

The results of studies carried out around the world have been positive, with wide ranging benefits for both individual and employer. The attractions include:

  • Increased engagement and productivity amongst the workforce. Staff are more engaged and focussed.
  • Reduction in sick leave.
  • Increased staff retention and attraction. This is of special significance in a resource constrained market where good staff are hard to find and easily lost to competitors. The introduction of a 4 day week at the UK’s first app based bank, Atom, led to a massive 500% surge in job applications.

 

Potential pitfalls

Can a 4-day week work in the service industry?

The provision of a readily available service is at the heart of what we do, so the introduction of a trial 4-day week would need to be managed very carefully in the same way that hybrid working arrangements have been finessed.

Some organisations outside the service industry have decided to close the entire company on a particular day e.g. Friday, but this just won’t be practical.

Given this, there will be increased administration to ensure appropriate levels of cover and fairness i.e. giving the same person every Friday or Monday off is hardly equitable to colleagues whose designated day off is mid-week. But, we are now used to the administration and management that goes with the successful introduction of hybrid working structures so any increase is unlikely to be insurmountable.

Considerations include:

  • Making sure there is enough resource to cover client demands at any one time.
  • Ensuring that there are enough staff to handle management and training.
  • To cover conflicting requirements for that extra day and ensuring fairness across the board.

 

As the weight of evidence is increasingly pointing to the benefits of the 4-day week for both employees and employers, and the widespread and successful introduction of hybrid working, maybe the time is right for something a little more radical.

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