As more companies across the UK sign up for a four-day working week trial, excitement for the pilot scheme has reached employees and workplaces across the country.
The trials in Iceland and Scotland have performed well, particularly as workers have reported a dramatic increase in their personal wellbeing. Businesses who have introduced the scheme have found they did not lose money and that productivity actually increased in some cases. Companies in the UK are now hoping to replicate this and achieve the same level of output for fewer hours of work.
To discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a four-day working week for employees, George Miller, employment lawyer at Richard Nelson LLP, has outlined some of the potential benefits should companies want to make the switch.
1. It offers an opportunity for employees to save on travel costs
Moving to a four-day working week has financial benefits for employees, with the opportunity to save money on commuting to the office and the additional costs this brings. This spending can be reinvested elsewhere, whether that is into a savings account or on improving their disposable income. This can aid in reducing the financial anxiety of the workforce, a stressor that many have experienced since the uncertainty that the pandemic brought.
2. Improves productivity
With employees able to more effectively balance their home and work life, trials of the four-day working week in New Zealand found that employees were more productive during their working day as they felt happier and more fulfilled. When working, they were able to focus better on their job after having more time to recharge away from work, benefiting their employers with no additional cost. However, for firms who are considering shifting the same 40-hour week to four days instead of five, employees could be working up to 10 hours a day. Here, these longer days could have an impact on employees’ stress levels and therefore negatively impact productivity in the long run.
3. Decreasing absenteeism
With employees working a shorter workweek, research shows that absenteeism reduces as they report better health and mental wellbeing. With employees experiencing fewer burnouts, they are less likely to call in sick to avoid work.
4. Gives employees a better work-life balance
A four-day working week gives employees an extra day over the weekend to visit the high street or spend on their hobbies, DIY, and gardening. It can also ensure a more equal workplace, with employees being able to spend more time with their families and better juggle care and work commitments.
5. Better recruitment possibilities
The pandemic has caused a shift in power to employees, where they seek greater flexibility from their employer. Being able to offer employees a flexible working pattern that includes a four-day working week is a unique way to attract talent to the business. With some employers offering employees the opportunity to work remotely full time, and others demanding their workforce return to the office every day, businesses must decide how their policy will compare and meet the needs of their employees.
If shifting to a four-day working week means employees working hours are reduced, businesses may need to re-calculate the holiday they are entitled to. It may be the case that employees are offered fewer days of annual leave in return for the four-day working week. For some employees, a reduction in holiday allowance may be off-putting if it is a less attractive offer than other industry players.
Setting objectives for a four-day working week trial
When looking into adopting a four-day working week, businesses should consider running a trial with set objectives to identify what they wish to achieve from the move. Employees should be involved in the details of the trial, where they have access to clear information regarding the goals and understand the way they will be managed under the trial.
Throughout the trial, businesses should closely monitor which parts of the scheme work well for their employees and which parts may need to be adjusted. Employees should be involved in this process, where feedback is gathered from staff to understand how the trial is impacting their mental health, productivity and attitude towards the company.
Once a trial has been completed, the results should be compiled and finalised to identify what the key takeaways were and what areas require further work. Adjustments will be required as the business grows and changes, with a feedback loop where management and employees can continually work to improve the workplace goals and outcomes.