The 4 day work week: Inevitable, revolutionary or risky?

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Could a 4 day work week lead to more productivity, engaged employees and a healthier bottom line?

The pandemic has seen some businesses rethink working patterns, especially as remote working hasn’t had a negative effect on productivity levels. Many workplace experts feel that technological advances have now started to make the traditional nine to five Monday to Friday seem outdated.

Scotland is set to trial a four-day working week. And the Trades Union Congress (TUC) may start campaigning for a UK-wide three-day weekend as standard, too.

A four-day week could work in two different ways: Employees could work ‘compressed hours’, squeezing in their full-time hours over four days instead of five. Or they could reduce their hours by 20%. In both cases, they would receive the same pay as before.

If workers can get the same amount of work done in less time, productivity wouldn’t be impacted either. So could a three-day weekend work for your business? We examine the pros and cons:

4 day work week pros

It's overwhelmingly popular with employees

When asked if they’d like a three-day weekend, not surprisingly 80% of Scottish employees said they were in favour.

Many people have suffered from burnout and stress since the start of the pandemic. Having more free time definitely boosts emotional wellbeing. Flexible work patterns are already valued by many employees. And changing to a three-day weekend could supercharge staff loyalty and engagement.

The data show people are more productive

When Microsoft’s Japan offices ran a four-day work week trial, productivity shot up by 40%. Clearly employees who are rested are more productive, focused and efficient than if they’re exhausted. Just like working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean more output, the ‘always-on’ mentality doesn’t lead to more productivity.

It can help work-life balance

Workers taking part in four-day work week trials around the world said they appreciated having more time to spend with families or do hobbies. They also noticed improvements in stress levels and job satisfaction.

From an employee perspective, company loyalty and teamwork also improved. Having enough time to rest and recover from work means staff are also less likely to need time off for stress-related or mental health issues.

It’s an excellent recruitment tool

Flexible working ranks highly on many candidates’ wishlists. If your business offers a four-day working week it could make you a more attractive employer.

As we know at HR GO helping clients fill their teams with high-quality candidates, lifestyle-enhancing benefits like this can really count. Job hunters want to work for an organisation with a nurturing culture that shares their values.

4 day work week cons

It may not suit your business or sector

There’s no doubt that a four-day work week won’t be for every business. Some sectors require people to work around the clock. Some roles can’t be done in fewer hours.

And some customer-facing sectors like hospitality and retail will struggle in particular. Would businesses be able to reduce their opening hours and survive? The expensive alternative would be to hire more staff to cover those who are off.

It may be harder to manage

The Monday to Friday system makes it relatively simple to navigate team workflow. But if everyone has a different day off during the week would it be harder to manage products, services, or meetings?

Maybe your business would let staff have any day off during the week, or a choice of a Monday or a Friday off. Another consideration is whether staff would feel under pressure to turn up to important meetings happening on their official ‘day off’.

It will be harder logistically at first

A four-day work week isn’t the type of thing most businesses can move to overnight. There’d need to be detailed planning and careful management of the transition as the working structure is re-adapted.

This is particularly so every area of the business still has the cover it needs.

Getting the best out of everyone

Some members of your team might jump at the chance of working over four days. Others might prefer to still work every weekday as normal or would rather choose to adapt their daily hours to start early and finish early.

Even if you decide against a four-day week as an employer, what’s clear is that the traditional office hours may be due a rethink. Staff value more flexibility whatever their situation. And giving each employee the right to choose what works best for them is a guaranteed way to get the best out of your team.

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