The Pros and Cons of a Four-Day Work Week
Eight hours a day, five days a week… For many employees across Britain and Europe, this way of working is so deeply entrenched, that any alternative used to seem completely unrealistic. However, the pandemic and shift to remote, hybrid and flexible work, particularly across marketing, communications and digital has started to change our perceptions about the workplace. Following a successful trial in Iceland, campaigners have been calling to further revolutionise the conventional work week.
The concept of a four-day work week is easy – full-time employees reduce their work week, by one day with no reduction in salary.
One way of implanting this sees compressed working hours, where the length of each shift is extended so that the number of hours worked does not change, but the employees get to enjoy a longer break. The second model is much more radical – the working week is reduced, but the staff are not expected to make the time, reducing the working week to an average of 32 hours (as opposed to the current 40).
Benefits of the four-day working week
For any professional working in communications, marketing or digital, the appeal is clear – less time at the desk, with no reduction of income. As those industries have already proved to be incredibly adaptable, extending the weekend could contribute to better work-life balance and help to reduce stress and burnout.
It is not a surprise that overworked employees are significantly less efficient than those working a regular or average working week. Based on a trial study in New Zealand, during a four-day week, not only were the productivity levels maintained but there was an improvement in job satisfaction, loyalty, and teamwork, along with lower stress levels.
Employee engagement, recruitment & retention
Reduced work hours can lead to happier, dependable and committed employees. By allowing more time to reset and recharge, workers can take better care of their mental and physical health, meaning that they can come back ready to take on new challenges and eventually reduce sick leave.
Adopting a four-day work week could make companies more appealing to candidates, especially in the current climate where flexibility is a priority for many job seekers. This is particularly important for smaller companies and start-ups that may not be able to match the rising salaries of the industry giants.
Equality in the workplace
According to Government Equalities Office, approximately two million Britons are not currently employed due to childcare responsibilities, and almost nine in ten of these are women. While flexible, hybrid or remote working may not always be the answer – a four-day week could help to promote equality. Employees would be able to spend more time with their families and juggle their care and work commitments more effectively.
Environmental impact and cost reduction
The carbon footprint of the employees (and thus the organisation) can also be decreased by reducing the working week. Fewer journeys mean less emissions, while the energy saved by keeping the lights and kettles off also amounts to meaningful environmental benefits.
Disadvantages of the four-day work week
While the societal and environmental benefits are indisputable, there are also several drawbacks. Implementing a four-day week can be extremely challenging, as it will require a lot of support, technology and a shift in workplace culture.
Not suitable for every business model
A four-day work week will not suit every business. It is a viable option for companies that can easily re-adapt their whole business. For example, hospitality or emergency services will need to hire more staff in order to operate at full capacity. Switching to a four-day model can be extremely expensive, especially during the transformation stage. This may involve taking on additional staff, interim or contract professionals to help with the transition and investment in technological advancements.
Ultimately your clients are your focus and if they cannot access your services, reduced working hours may not be the answer. However, before crossing off the idea entirely, it may be worth considering AI-powered websites, chatbots or shift reorganisation.
While true four-day week should mean a reduction of hours, with no difference to income, in reality, many employers will still expect staff to work 40-hour weeks. In this case, shifts may extend to up to 10 hours. Consequently, longer days may have a detrimental effect on employees’ stress levels, wellbeing, and overall productivity.
Is adopting a four-day workweek realistic?
The New Economics Foundation recommended moving towards a shorter working week to address the issues of unemployment, high carbon emission, low wellbeing, inequalities, overworking, family care, and lack of leisure time.
As aim to build back the economy in a greener, more sustainable way, a four-day work week seems more achievable than ever before. While most of the sectors may not be ready yet, over the years, most countries in the developed world have seen the average working hours decrease significantly. In the late 19th century, a standard working week in the US was over 60 hours per week. Today, the weekly hours worked average at 33. So, in comparison, cutting the working hours by one-fifth does not seem nearly as revolutionary.
If you are faced with unexpected challenges or are preparing for a transitional period and need more help, get in touch today. VMA GROUP can help you source the best interim, contract and temporary professionals, who are available immediately and can make a real difference to your organisation.
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