Is a Four-Day Working Week Really Worth It?

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Ryan Kaye

- January 25th, 2022

Fantasise about spending less time in the workplace without your pay being cut? Then this is about to become a reality for more workers. In June, the UK will launch a trial of a four-day working week. So far, roughly 30 firms have registered for it.

The pilot of the shorter working week will allow employees to work 32 hours each week, with no change to their benefits and pay.

UK businesses can choose to request that workers spread the 32 hours across five days.

Moving to a four-day work week is a win-win opportunity for organisations.

Research has discovered that workers are more productive, and there are benefits to their mental health.

The 4-day work week explained 

In a nutshell, the four-day working week enables staff members to cut down the number of days they work while still working the same number of hours.

So, rather than five eight-hour shifts spread across five working days, staff work 10-hour stints spread over four days.

Because the contracted hours are still being met, the worker doesn’t lose any pay, keeping the same rate of income.

Atom Bank is the first fintech to make the switch to the 4-day week

Fintech Atom Bank’s 430 employees already made the transition to a four-day working week on 1st November 2021, without it affecting their pay at all.

The Durham-based firm stated it wanted to offer its workers increased flexibility to reflect changing office practices that occurred because of Covid.

Almost all the company’s workers have swapped to working a 34-hour working week across four days – and still receive the same monthly pay as their previous 37.5-hour, five-day working week.

Its staff can decide whether to take either Monday or Friday off. That said, a few employees in the services and operational sector are required to work one of these two days and take off another day instead to keep the business running smoothly.

The UK four-day work week’s gaining traction 

four day working week

The trial is being led by 4 Day Week Global in a bid to offer staff greater flexibility. It’s hoped the new working model will increase productivity during working hours.

The four-day work culture isn’t a new phenomenon. Companies across the globe have been playing with the idea for a while now.

Unilever and retail giant Morrison’s are thinking about making the switch to the four-day week. A British arm of camera firm Canon is taking part in the six-month trial which is being administered by professors at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

Other countries with four-day work weeks include Canada, the USA, New Zealand, Australia, and Ireland. Trials are also taking place in Scotland and Spain.

A four-day working week was trialled in Iceland by Reykjavik City Council between 2015 and 2019, with academics dubbing it an “overwhelming success”. The trial eventually involved over 2,500 employees, roughly one per cent of Iceland’s staff.

Workplaces involved in the trial included offices, preschools, social service providers, and hospitals.

The benefits of a four-day working week in the UK

4 day working week uk

The four-day working week will most likely increase high street sales by a projected £58 billion, as three-day weekends allow shoppers around 20 per cent more time to purchase. This means a boost in spending related to DIY, hobbies, and gardening.

The four-day working week also means less expenditure for businesses, as launching a new company involves no end of time, creativity, money, and energy.

Back in August 2019, Microsoft Japan trialled a four-day working week, giving all 2,300 workers five Fridays off consecutively.

The firm declared that productivity skyrocketed by 40 per cent, employees were happier, they took less time off, and meetings were more efficient.

Most of the workers revealed they favoured the shorter work week and other perks such as a 59 per cent reduction in the number of pages employees printed and a 23 per cent drop in weekly electricity use.

The shorter working week model disrupts the existing working model, encouraging organisations to back off from merely calculating the length of time employees are at work. Instead, it inspires them to place a stronger emphasis on their productivity.

What are the disadvantages of a four-day working week?

While the studies conducted so far have proved the new working model to be a success, some critics have argued it’ll cause enhanced stress for employees, as they’ll attempt to cram all their work – or more – into fewer hours.

A few believe the idea will be tricky for those in customer-facing roles or 24/7 operations such as the emergency services or NHS, in which bonus payments may bring about an additional fee to staff or the taxpayer.

Final thoughts

Sure, the four-day working week has been a big hit in numerous European countries and has been successful for many UK companies. But, it’s a radical approach for an organisation to take, necessitating the employer and staff to change their attitudes for it to work efficiently. Thus, it may not be every company’s cup of tea.

Although a more flexible approach in terms of working hours is now the norm from staff, a steadier, less disrupting process would be to offer hybrid, more flexible working options instead.

Similarly, as we’ve said above, the shorter working week may not suit all industries. What data and research have shown, though, is that companies that concentrate on preserving employee engagement, wellbeing, productivity, and morale are hitting the jackpot.

Unfortunately, though, we don’t have many clients with four-day working weeks, but if, on the other hand, a five day-working week suits you, be sure to give us a shout!