Four day working week – fad or future?
The results of the UK’s largest 4-day working week trial are in, and it must be said, the results are fascinating.
92% of businesses who participated are going to continue with the shorter week. As part of the trial, they were allowed to decide how a 4-day working week would work for their business – this included the usual idea of Friday off or working a staggered structure.
Key findings from the trial include:
- 39% of employees felt less stressed
- 40% of employees found they were sleeping better
- 54% of employees found the work/life balance easier
- Sick days fell by over 60%
- 57% fewer employees left compared to a year earlier
It’s worth noting that this was still a relatively small-scale trial, with 3,000 businesses taking part over a 6-month period.
What is a four-day working week?
The idea behind the four-day working week is for employees to keep the same salary they’re on but work fewer hours, reducing the working week to 32 hours, with no loss of pay or benefits.
The UK works longer hours than the most of Europe, yet we have higher levels of stress and burnout which isn’t making us productive.
Like everything, there’s pros and cons of a four-day working week…
- Better work life balance for employees
- Support with the cost of living, reducing childcare costs and commuting costs
- As the results above show, a 4 day working week contributes towards lower levels of stress and burnout, which in turn reduces sickness absence levels
- Be an attractive proposition to help recruit new employees
- Higher performance and profits for businesses because employees are better rested, have a better work life balance and therefore more productive
- Contribute towards a more equal workplace – research shows that roughly 2 million people are out of employment due to childcare responsibilities and 89% of them are female. A 4 day working week could present more opportunities for those with childcare commitments
- Could be too intense to try and fit five days of work into four, which could contribute to higher levels of stress and burnout – the opposite of what’s intended!
- A 4-day working week will not work for every business, no matter how hard we try. For example, hospitality or care workers, industries who already struggle with recruitment and retention may struggle to implement a model that works, leading to wider recruitment gaps
- Part time workers – how do you deal with part time workers in comparison to full time workers when it comes to managing a 4-day week, it could be a challenge to ensure fairness
Fad or future?
Whilst the results from the 4-day working week trial are largely positive, as discussed above, the trial was short and the businesses that participated are only a small section of UK businesses. Longer trials are needed to see the benefits over a longer period.
For some businesses it may be revolutionary and they’re able to implement it effectively and it works for them, however, it’s likely we’re a little way off a four-day week becoming the norm.
Considerations for implementing a four-day week
If you did want to implement a 4-day working week, it’s important to undertake careful planning and involve employees across the business to engage them in the process to understand what will and won’t work for your business in particular.
You will also need to have your employment contracts reviewed and updated to take into account changes to working patterns and understand the implications of a short working week on holiday pay and calculations, particularly in relation to part time workers.
You mustn’t make changes to your contracts and policies unilaterally, as you’re essentially changing your employees’ terms and conditions.
Psst! Need contracts and policy advice? Primed employment & HR service can help.
Alternatives to a 4 day working week
Not ready for a 4 day working week but looking to improve employee wellbeing and improve recruitment and retention? Here are some of our suggestions below.
- More flexible working opportunities and hybrid working – allow your employees more freedom and flexibility when it comes to when, where and how they work
- Job sharing – not always possible for every role but job sharing represents an opportunity for employees who can only work part time, but for a business to have a full time resource
- Extra holiday entitlement – go above and beyond the statutory leave to allow extra time for rest
- Employee benefits & rewards – offer a good employee benefits programme that includes lifestyle discounts, healthy living benefits such as gym membership and health insurance along with access to mindfulness apps or an EAP with employee support services.
- Nine-day fortnight – working the same hours but condensed into a fortnight i.e. you work 8-4.45pm everyday and get a day off once a fortnight – essentially giving 26 days extra holiday a year
- Flexible Fridays – no internal meetings scheduled on a Friday and no expectations to be online or available