Calls for a 4-day working week have increased since the pandemic and the results of the world’s largest 4-day working week trial were recently released. According to the trial, 39% of employees reported feeling less stressed and 71% reported lower levels of burnout. Employers also reported 65% fewer sick and personal days being taken.
While these are positive results, this new approach to work can be a complicated area. With this in mind, we outline what employers should know if they are considering implementing a 4-day week themselves.
The main advantage of implementing a 4-day week for employers is that they will be able to cut the costs of running their office space. Employees would also be able to reap the financial benefits too through not having to commute to work for the day. A potentially cut in additional costs like food expenses and parking is a further benefit.
Implementing a 4-day week means that employees will have more time to other do things that will help to improve their work-life balance. Results from the recent trial show that levels of anxiety and fatigue decreased, while employees’ overall health and well-being drastically improved. This overall happiness can mean that employees will have a more positive relationship with their job and may be more loyal to their employers.
- Retention and loyalty
A recent whitepaper carried out by Henley Business School found that “although all generations would desire a four-day week to some extent, it is generation Z and millennials who seem to be leading the demand on businesses to make a change.” According to recent studies, millennials and Gen Z makeup 38% of the global workforce and by 2030 this figure will rise to around 58%. Considering this, implementing a 4-day week may be the best option for employers if they want to encourage retention.
Research by 4-day week global has found that changing to a 4-day week gave them a considerable advantage in an ever-competitive job market – 63% of businesses found it easier to recruit new staff and retain them once a 4-day week was implemented.
- Higher levels of productivity
On the whole, employees are more productive when they have a better work-life balance and more time to rest. Microsoft Japan reported that their staff were much more productive when they implemented a 4-day week.
- Meeting business demands
In reality, a 4-day working week doesn’t work for everyone. Making the change to a 4-day working week could mean that businesses could lose clients. In some sectors, it’s near impossible to operate on a 4-day working week, such as hospitality and care. So the focus is on staff. Employees have to be satisfied with working as instructed which can mean that they may have to be willing to work evenings and weekends. They will need to be able to work efficiently and as part of a team. This can result in friction in the workplace about hours that have been worked. However, if employers can manage their time well, a 4-day week may be possible, it just needs to be organised and managed effectively.
Similarly, as much as a 4-day week may be welcomed by many, other employees may prefer to have more time to get their work done and may feel pressured with fewer days to complete their tasks. Employees may feel that the traditional Monday-Friday week suits them better and may not want to work a 4-day working week.
- Increased pressure on employees
Although the results of the trial showed higher levels of productivity, this may not be the case for every business. With fewer days to complete their workload, employees may experience more stress after working a 4-day week, particularly in the long term. Deadlines and requests for more work to be completed may still come on the 5th day of the week when employees aren’t working, so this may mean that a 4-day week is a much more intense option and could result in long-term burnout.
- Complexity and upheaval
A 4-day week can look straightforward in practice, but in reality, making the jump from 5 days to 4 can be incredibly complex to implement. Employers will need to go back to basics and look at the bare bones of their business when planning how to implement this. Schedules and policies will need to be reviewed and changed, and employees will need to be spoken to. While some employees may welcome the change, others may feel differently about it and it could result in a negative backlash.
Overall, a 4-day week has its pros and cons, but it’s always best that employers look at all options available and really think carefully before implementing a big change like this. If you’re still unsure, doing an internal trial of the 4-day working week may be the best solution, as only then will you be able to see if this way of working works for you.
While a 4-day week may be popular, it just doesn’t work for every industry. However, there are alternative options for employers who are looking to modernise their workplace, such as introducing flexible working hours and hybrid working.
For more information about any of the issues discussed in this blog or employment law more generally, contact Attwells’ Head of Employment Law, Lloyd Clarke, at Lloyd.firstname.lastname@example.org or 01206 239761.