After embracing flexible work styles during the pandemic, some companies are now taking the risk and adopting shorter weeks, as a permanent solution. So, what if all organisations in the UK scrapped the traditional 5-day week and made this the norm? Would business soar or would productivity take a hit?
Between 2015 and 2019, Iceland was the first country to take the leap and trial the four-day week in which workers were paid the same amount for shorter hours. It was overwhelmingly successful, leading to many workers moving to shorter hours permanently. In 2021, Spain and New Zealand also announced trials of a 32-hour week, and Scotland is putting plans into place for companies to explore the benefits and costs. The UK are following closely behind.
So, how do you know if a four-day week is right for your business? Take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages below:
Reduced running costs: Moving to a four-day work week can cut costs for everyone – the office would be closed for one extra day a week, saving on costs such as electricity and energy consumption. Employees would also be using fewer office supplies and equipment, paying less to commute, and seeing a reduction in expenses such as business lunches.
Increased employee productivity and wellbeing: With one extra day off per week, employees would have more free time to do the things they love, improving overall happiness. We’ve all heard the phrase “work smarter, not harder” – this is the theory behind the four-day week. If you’re putting your employees’ wellbeing first, ensuring they are happier and more fulfilled in their work-life balance, it’s said they will focus more on their job, with an overall boost in productivity.
Helps to attract and retain talent: Over the past few years, workplaces have started to offer more flexible working, which is one of the biggest perks that persuades employees to join and stay at a company. It shows companies trust their employees to get the work done, even within limited timeframes. By offering a four-day working week and a three-day weekend, companies are more attractive and, as a result, are able to attract and retain the best talent.
Reduced hours and work-related stress: To accommodate the four-day week, the number of hours that employees work will need to be reduced. Although evidence suggests this can increase productivity, it may not necessarily be a great morale booster to your team, as they are being given less time to meet the same targets.
Increased pressure: An option to achieve the four-day week would be to compress hours instead of reducing them – so instead of working five eight-hour days, your teams would work four ten-hour days, but compressed hours can turn up the pressure. People can only focus and work effectively for so long before tiredness and burnout sets in.
Less holiday entitlement: One of the first things employees will ask is “how does this affect my holiday entitlement?”. If you switch to a four-day week but keep to the same hours then holiday allowance won’t change, however if you reduce the number of hours employees work each week, then holiday entitlement will need to be re-calculated.
So, are you considering a four-day week in your organisation? It remains to be seen whether it’s the future of the workplace, but organisations need to continue to be agile and adapt to accommodate increasing changes in technology and the marketplace, whilst maintaining focus on the wellbeing of employees to support productivity, retention, and engagement.