Is The 4 Day Working Week The Way Forward?
The idea of a 4 day work week has been gaining traction in recent years, with many businesses across the globe now trialling the concept.
More than 80% of people in the UK would prefer a four-day work week, according to a survey in 2021 by recruitment company Reed.
The results are promising, with a staggering 92% of companies who took part in the trial reporting that they would continue with a shorter working week.
In this blog post, we’ll explore:
- What is a 4 day working week?
- The 4 day working week experiment
- The 4 day working week results
- What are the benefits of a 4 day work week?
- What are the disadvantages of a 4 day work week?
- The long-term outlook
What is a 4 day working week?
A 4 day working week is a work schedule that reduces the usual five day work week to four days making way for a 3 day weekend.
This experiment meant that employees would work 80% of their regular hours without any reduction in pay, while still delivering 100% of their typical 5-day output.
The key difference between this arrangement and other flexible working arrangements is that there is no reduction in pay for employees.
It has been seen as a radical shift in the UK, where the five-day work week has been part of working life for more than a century.
The 4 day working week experiment
The 4 day working week experiment was conducted over the course of six months in the UK, with more than 2,900 employees from 70 different organisations taking part.
The employers participating in the experiment ranged from a brewery to a bank, game design company to a local fish and chip shop.
The goal of the experiment was to explore whether employees could be as productive and successful with one less day of work per week.
The employees kept 80% of their usual hours per week without any reductions in pay. They were also given additional training and resources to help them adjust to the new structure.
The results of the experiment were overwhelmingly positive. Most of the employers reported improved levels of employee engagement, satisfaction and productivity despite the reduced working hours.
This suggests that a four day workweek could be an effective way for businesses to improve morale and performance without increasing costs or reducing quality of service.
In addition to these improvements, some companies also reported reductions in absenteeism, with fewer staff members taking time off due to illness or personal reasons.
This could help reduce costs associated with hiring temporary staff to cover absences.
Overall, 92% of employers said they would continue with a shorter workweek after the experiment was finished, with the majority preferring a four-day workweek structure.
Could this experiment pave the way for the future of business?
The 4 day working week results
The results of the four-day working week experiment were tremendously positive.
Among the 60 plus companies that participated in the trial, including fish and chip shops, education services, marketing agencies and financial firms, 92% of employers said they would continue with a shorter workweek.
Following the programme, 30% of the participants chose to continue with the shorter week in a permanent change.
Employees reported significantly improved well-being, with seven in ten experiencing lower levels of burnout.
Despite losing one whole working day each week, on average the companies’ revenue stayed broadly the same, even rising by 1.4% on average.
Results from the 4 day working week even included employees being far less likely to quit than before the trial, with a 65% reduction in the number of sick days.
Furthermore, most of the participants expressed their satisfaction with the new schedule and wanted to keep the four-day workweek even after the end of the trial.
What are the benefits of a 4 day work week?
The four day working week offers a range of benefits for employees and employers alike.
Studies into the effects of reduced hours show increased productivity, better employee engagement, improved job satisfaction and loyalty, greater work-life balance and less stress, and even a smaller carbon footprint.
Productivity levels are maintained or improved in 4 day work weeks, as shown by Sanford University’s research into the relationship between the two factors.
A trial study conducted by New Zealand based firm Perpetual Guardian showed positive results in job satisfaction, teamwork, work/life balance and company loyalty with 45% less stress reported by employees.
Sweden conducted a trial study into 6 hour days for nurses in a care home, with results showing less sick leave, improved health and mental wellbeing, and greater engagement leading to 85% more activities for patients.
The environmental benefits of shorter working hours should not be overlooked either, as countries with shorter working hours typically produce lower CO2 emissions per capita.
In conclusion, the four day work week appears to offer a range of advantages both to employers and employees, offering potential savings in terms of productivity, job satisfaction and even carbon emissions.
What are the disadvantages of a 4 day work week?
While there are many potential benefits to a 4 day work week, there are also some potential drawbacks.
A four day working week isn’t suitable for all sectors, as some areas require a seven-day presence, such as emergency services and public transport networks.
Additionally, some workers may prefer the structure of a five day week, and find it difficult to adjust to a shorter working week.
Furthermore, it can increase costs for certain companies as they may need to pay out more overtime or hire additional staff to make up any shortfalls in working hours.
As a result, it is important to assess the needs of your company and employees before introducing a four day working week. Consider any potential issues and how these could be managed before making a final decision.
Additionally, if employees are expected to work the same amount of hours across four days instead of five, their productivity and engagement may suffer.
For the best results, 7 hour work days should be expected in order to maximise the benefits of the 4 day work week.
The long term outlook
The successful trial of a four-day work week has led to a growing awareness that the traditional 9-5 model isn’t always the most effective and productive way of working.
While the four-day work week may be the right model for some companies, it may not be feasible for all.
The fact that so many employers were willing to participate in the trial and the positive results they experienced show that more businesses are becoming open to alternative models of work.
In the future, we may see more companies implement a four-day work week as part of their routine operations.
This could result in more flexible hours, improved employee satisfaction and morale, increased productivity, and a better work/life balance for employees.
However, there may also be drawbacks for companies that opt for this model, such as higher overhead costs, reduced customer service, and difficulty adjusting to a new system.
Whatever the outcome, it’s clear that the traditional nine-to-five isn’t going to remain the only option for much longer.
The 4 day working week has been the subject of a large-scale experiment and the results showed that 92% of employers would be willing to continue with it.
While there are many benefits to having a 4 day work week, such as improved well-being, productivity, and job satisfaction, there are also potential drawbacks such as increased costs for companies and only being suitable for certain working sectors.
However, with more businesses embracing flexible working arrangements, the long-term outlook for the 4 day working week appears to be positive.