Could 4-day working weeks become the norm?
Slashing the Working Week to Four Days: Good for Workers, Better for Business
The UK works some of the longest hours in Europe, according to one study, but our output per hour is lagging behind. Is it time to switch to a shorter working week? Almost three in four Brits believe we would be a happier nation with a four-day working week, but is it realistic to expect happier workers and happier businesses from losing one of our work days?
How does the four-day week benefit workers?
It seems like a simple equation: a four-day work-week means a longer weekend, so more time with family, friends, catching up on tasks around the home, and enjoying leisure activities, which we know is beneficial to both our physical and mental health. Working longer hours over fewer days also has other benefits:
– less time (and money) spent commuting
– increased productivity
– stimulates creativity
– less work-family life conflict
– higher job satisfaction
How is the four-day week good for business?
Several big businesses have already introduced flexible working for some or all of its staff, and it’s having a big impact where it matters: tax services firm Ryan reported that their revenue and profits almost doubled, client satisfaction was the highest it had ever been, and the firm received several awards for “best place to work” when they dropped their working week to four days.
When Utah made it mandatory for its state employees to work a four-day week, it achieved success across the board. Within one year:
– carbon emissions were down 14% and fuel consumption down by 744,000 gallons
– unauthorised days off dropped significantly
– three in four of participants preferred the four-day working week
With that extra day switched off, companies save on bills such as heating and electricity, cutting costs while profiting from more dedicated and enthusiastic staff.
Barbara Wankoff, director of workplace solutions at tax firm KPMG, argues that “it’s a win-win for the company and the employees. Their satisfaction goes way up when they have control of their time. And it increases employee morale and productivity and retention.”
Are you ready for the four-day week?
Happier (and therefore, loyal) employees, better productivity, and saving money look like attractive benefits, and so it can be tempting to immediately implement the shorter working week – but be sure to ask your staff if it’s really going to work for them. Some employees can lose concentration after a long shift, making those extra hours useless, while others may struggle to arrange childcare or to work their day around other commitments. Having the extra day free might not compensate for missing four family dinners a week.
Instead of diving straight into a new compressed way of working, it might be worth trialling the system on a smaller scale – such as early finishes on a Friday or taking the last day of the month off work. Staggering days off (rather than every employee taking a Friday-Sunday break, some might take an extra day mid-week) also means that there is always someone available in the office. Flexible working – from home on a smart phone or putting in the hours when is convenient for them – is an even more accommodating alternative for workers looking to manage their own work-leisure balance.