The talk of a 4 day working week has been on the UK agenda for many years. With work life balance being top of the agenda as well as good mental health, the possibility maybe sooner than you think. Studies have shown that there are many advantages in reducing the working week.
At present UK employees work the longest hours in Europe however their productivity is low (source: TUC 2019). In comparison, other European countries such as Germany and Denmark, employees work shorter hours but their productivity is higher. Thus, the overall impression is that a shorter working week would benefit the employer as well as the employee.
A handful of UK companies have observed the impact of a shorter working week and have themselves trialled this approach with great success (i.e. Synergy Vision, Elektra Lighting). Evidence suggest (YouGov survey 2019) 74% of workers were able to complete their 5 days job in 4. The results are happier and content staff with high productivity rates. There is a healthy work life balance, time away from the work place to spend with family and friends.
Mental health charities (i.e. mind) also support the shorter working week as it has had a positive impact on mental health. It is a fact that longer working hours contributes to work related stress. With reports of stress levels increasing, employers are having to look at alternative working practices such as reduction of working hours to help employees. Statistically employers who already implemented a 4 day week have notice a 10% drop in work related stress (source: company Perpetual Guardian).
Interestingly environmentalist too gave their view as it would reduce our carbon footprint – therefore spending less time driving to and from work, not switching computers or machinery on, typically consuming 20% less energy (source: centre for economic & policy research). Therefore, this approach would also benefit the environment.
However, a ‘one size fits all’ approach does not suit all organisations.
Front line emergency staff working in hospitals, fire stations, police stations work long days and hours. Other arguments suggest condensing 5 day week to a 4 day week still creates stresses resulting in errors and that the hype is short lived. Many smaller firms may think they can’t do or will struggle with a shorter week as they do not have the resources to accommodate this and could have a detrimental impact operationally. Is the shorter week suitable for all positions or some; how would this impact on morale and department productivity and so on, many factors to consider.
However, let us not dismiss the idea of a shorter week as the following recommendations show any company, big or small, can do it.
Top tips – working smarter together
- Have a productivity policy in place. A well detailed policy is an ideal way to communicate to staff the business expectation of a shorter week i.e. to ensure that the company’s financial figures are healthy and well balanced, clear team goals and objectives. Employees must therefore demonstrate their (long term) commitment by satisfying their daily work tasks in a shorter week and how they will achieve this. Consulting with your staff is key. Can work be broken down into segments? Staff should be encouraged to think (individually or in teams) about how they will be able to achieve a shorter week.
- Communicate the policy with your staff. Allow staff to make the choice of whether they wish to partake in a shorter week. Staff can opt in or opt out.
- Trial the policy over a reasonable period of time, such as 3 months plan? There is no commitment to a long term 4 day week if the plan is simply not working.
- External consultants. There are independent consultants who have trialled a shorter week before and can assist in making a plan based on your organisational needs.
- What about annual leave and sickness? Companies must factor in operational needs as well as allow for absence; such as holiday, sickness, maternity, paternity and so on. Ensure a flexible working approach.
- Do your research. How have other smaller companies managed to apply this; whether they are in the same or different industry. Explore what worked, what didn’t work and what can you gleam from them to apply into your company to ensure this is a success.
For further information on a 4 day working week and how it can work for your company, please contact the team at Quest. Contact here.