Employment News

News added on 10.06.2019


Flexible working

Should you consider a four-day working week?

A report published by job website Indeed has revealed that 74% of workers believe they could do their job to the same standard in four days rather than five. Is a four-day working week really something that you should consider?

Indeed’s “Meaning of Work” report was compiled after polling more than 2,000 full-time employees. It also found that the proportion of those who believed their work would not be compromised by working one less day a week was highest among millennials, i.e. those aged between 23 and 38, at 79%. In addition, Indeed revealed that online searches for terms such as “working from home”, “remote work” and “flexible work” were up 116% as a share of all the searches on its UK website since 2015.

As the demands of the workforce evolve, skills shortages increase and technology continues to advance, you may have to consider a more flexible approach to how you organise your staff in future, and this may include exploring a variety of flexible working options. However, in April 2019, research foundation the Wellcome Trust shelved its plans to trial a four-day working week for its head office staff, having concluded that it would have been “too operationally complex” to implement. Had it gone ahead with the trial, it would have been the largest UK employer to move to a four-day working week.

Advocates of the four-day working week assert that it will result in rises in productivity, more efficient usage of staff time, increased business profits, greater job satisfaction and reduced employee stress levels. Conversely, those against the concept argue that the risk of implementing it is expensive, certain industries might adversely suffer from the lack of business flexibility and, in practice, it can lead to more stress and a worse work-life balance in many job roles as employees try to cram five days’ worth of work into four, plus there’s the added risk that some employees will see the extra day off as a “gift” and won’t actually become any more efficient. A four-day working week won’t be suitable for all employers and all job roles and, in fact, you don’t have to be as extreme as scrapping an entire working day to help employees with their work-life balance. Other steps you can take include:

  • introducing other forms of flexible working, such as working from home and more flexible working hours, e.g. annualised hours, flexi-time and time off in lieu
  • implementing e-mail blackout periods, e.g. in the evenings and at weekends
  • encouraging lunch breaks away from desks
  • shortening meetings
  • creating designated office quiet spaces
  • encouraging staff to take all of their paid annual leave entitlement
  • offering training to help employees develop resilience to manage their stress levels
  • providing access to stress counselling services
  • engaging in team-building exercises and encouraging fitness and exercise initiatives.

If you decide to consider a reduced working week, test it out as a limited trial first to see if your staff can accomplish more by working less, but do take into account that employees’ initial enthusiasm to prove that this is the case may then start to diminish on a longer-term basis, i.e. a permanent introduction of a reduced working week could lead to complacency and employees’ productivity slipping back.

To improve employees’ work-life balance and increase productivity, you don’t need to do anything as extreme as introducing a four-day working week. First consider other forms of flexible working such as homeworking and more flexible working hours, as well as taking measures such as implementing e-mail blackout periods and encouraging staff to take their lunch breaks and all of their paid annual leave. If you do want to reduce your working week, do it as a trial first.

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