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Anyone For A 4-Day Working Week?

Research has shown that the UK is closer to a 4-day working week than ever. It would be like a bank holiday EVERY weekend! Great, work-life balance addressed!

Many employers require a non-standard method for working hours to suit the 24/7 economy, such as retail and those in the ‘gig’ economy. The ability of an organisation to have a 4-day working week really depends on the company’s needs and the market it operates in.

The notion of a shorter working week is a global phenomenon, ignited by the increase in mental health issues in the workplace. Interestingly, Deloitte’s research into mental health claims that only 2 in 5 employees are working at peak performance due to distraction and demotivation, often caused by the number of hours worked.

The idea of a 4-day week is not a new idea. During the Great Depression in 1930, Keynes predicted that as industry became more efficient, we would only work a 15-hour work week within the next 100 years. The detail behind the economist’s prediction is open for debate, but it still resonates nearly 90 years later.

Recent research has shown that a change in 5-days a week, 8 hours per day is viable. YouGov completed a survey looking at the working week. It found that of the 7 European countries surveyed, 63% of UK and Swedish workers and 65% of Finnish workers would welcome a change. Interestingly, they also discovered that a change in working days would apparently make the economy more prosperous and productive and, not surprisingly, make the nation happier.

Perpetual Guardian, a financial services company, in New Zealand introduced a 4-day week for an 8-week experiment for its 240 staff and there was no decrease in work done and increases in areas such as leadership and commitment. Importantly staff stress levels fell from 45% to 38% and work-life balance scores increased from 54% to 78%.

The advantages of a 4-day week are fairly obvious:

  • An extra day for family time. Employees who are satisfied at home tend to be more focused in the office.
  • One day less to commute – an advantage for the individual and the environment.
  • Less stress for the individual – work is the second reason for an individual’s unhappiness, after ill-health.
  • A company that offers a 4-day week assists retention and recruitment. Flexible working makes an employer more attractive to new recruits and for existing employees.

However, there are negatives:

  • The risk of employees not making their work requirements with fewer hours, thus making it non-sustainable.
  • If customers expect people to be available 5 days a week, it won’t work.
  • Employees may be less productive due to a longer period off and for example, have more time-consuming emails to open on their return.
  • To retain the same level of pay, it is likely that employers will require the same number of hours, resulting in longer days. A ‘normal’ five-day week is 8 hours a day for 5 days or 40 hours. A four-day week could use a 10-hour day and still get to the same number of hours.

There is an argument that working to a set routine has been surpassed by ‘getting the job done’, working from home or on a commute. Throughout history, workers have benefitted from improved technology through reduced working time. Will technology continue to significantly change most jobs, even making some redundant? Is this something that should be considered? Will we be working significantly fewer hours a week if (or when) robots take over human jobs?

Another interesting angle is given by Poutintsev:

“When you are rich, you can afford to take it easy and chill, but still people only make their lives harder in chase of acceptance, recognition and valuation…. Do you actually need that 300 square metre house and Ferrari, or maybe sticking with 100 square metre apartment and a BMW while working 2 times less will be better? Will you be able to enjoy your wealth, if all you do is work?”

Going back to Maynard Keynes, according to an article by Tim Worstall (2015), he was right to predict a shorter working week, but the extra leisure time he describes actually comes from the fact that we have become more efficient completing household ‘work’ to give more ‘me’ time……

Please contact us on paul@coppicehr.com or 07814 008478 to discuss HR cost-effective HR solutions.

Inspired by: Grazia Daily – 4 Day Working Week, The Guardian – Four Day Working Week Trial, CK Clinical – The Pros & Cons Of A Four Day Working Week, Forbes – Keynes Four Day Week, Medium.com – Keynes’ Misunderstood 4 Day Week