So one of the consequences of the Covid pandemic has been about finding ways of better working. Many companies and people have adopted home working as the norm, or hybrid working. Advances in technology is another catalyst to this change. 

Many employers and employees have simply realised, after the world changed overnight, that their priorities were wrong and want to focus on that work-life balance. In January a number of UK companies, including Atom Bank and the UK division of Canon, have signed up for a six month trial of the “four day week” or more importantly, “the three day weekend”.

The “100:80:100” working model (100 per cent pay for 80 per cent of the time, yet committing to 100 per cent productivity) is what best categorises the “four day week” concept. In simple terms the pros are pretty obvious; the employee gets more free time, with no reduction in salary, with the assumption that everyone will work harder and more efficiently to make sure they don’t jeopardise the extra day off.

However, how we use this additional day will be the challenge. Will we relax and recharge? Will it make us more considerate and community minded?  Or whilst others relax will some see it as an opportunity to get ahead by checking their emails, and working regardless. Will our social media feeds be inundated with #workingonmydayoff as the comparison culture thrives even more – gone will be instagram posts of nice meals to be replaced with images of people doing that bit extra for work !

So what are the benefits of a four day working week?

Increased Productivity

A Stanford University study delivered a report with the key statement that overworked employees are actually less productive than employees working an average or normal working week. The results from this study are relatively unsurprising given that some of the most productive countries in the world, like Norway, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, on average work around 27 hours a week — the same hours proposed for a UK 4 day work week.

Globally, the Four Day Week has already been implemented, Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand based Trust Company, are already realising the benefits of a 4 day work. They are finding that not only does a 4 day work week increase employee satisfaction, company commitment and teamwork, but it also decreases stress levels. Even better, reducing employees’ work schedules to a 4 day work week doesn’t harm their productivity or company output.

Gender Equality

Recent research shows that roughly 2 million Britains are not currently employed due to childcare responsibilities, with 89% of these being women. A 4 day working week helps promote an equal workplace as employees would be able to spend more time with their families and allows for greater flexibility with childcare.

Happy Staff

Simply speaking, employees are less likely to be stressed or take take sick leave if they have a 3 day weekend. The extended rest results in them returning to work ready to take on new challenges.

Reduced Carbon Footprint

Countries with shorter working hours typically have a smaller carbon footprint so reducing our work week from 5 to 4 days could have an environmental benefit too. Shortening our working week means that employees don’t need to commute as much and large office buildings are only in use four days a week.

But it’s not all sweetness and light

Whilst there are obviously a lot of benefits, there are also a number of disadvantages. Implementing a four-day work-week can be difficult as it requires the right support, technology and workplace culture. Unavoidably, new changes will encounter some challenges and disadvantages, especially with those working in a B2C industry where customer experience is greatly affected. Customer now expect instant solution and answers, and although technology advances such at Chat Bots and AI-powered web solutions can help with this, there is nothing that will ever fully replace the human touch.

The biggest issue to overcome is a confused concept of a 4 day week. Employees who are expected to still work 35 hours, but across 4 days will actually show decreased levels of productivity and thus negative effects on employees’ engagement, work-life balance and overall happiness.

A Happy Equilibrium

A four day working week might not work for all but there are certainly some things we can learn from it:

  • Identify your most productive hours – if you are a morning person then tackle the biggest tasks that require the most brain power during this time
  • Be Realistic on your to-do lists – don’t overcrowd it, and set some realistic time deadlines and aim to stick to them
  • Schedule the you time – its proven that a brain rest helps productivity – so schedule that walk with your dog, pop to the gym, then get back at it
  • Don’t cram – Few meetings start or end on time, so add a cushion

There is a slow take up by managers though. In February 2020, just under 5% of businesses had launched a “Four Day Working Week”, that has only increased to 7% by the start of this year, though the numbers who are considering it have increased to 20%. With many companies still examining improved working practices in the post-pandemic world, it was supposing to read that 73% said they thought it highly unlikely (Source: Chartered Management Institute). However thought can often be wrong… The report suggested that younger managers are a lot more receptive in the idea, with nearly 80 per cent under the age of 35 liked the thought of adopting a four day working week.

At Campbell & Fletcher Recruitment we have returned to work with a mixture of 4 day working weeks, flexible working and work from home – we have tried to be flexible to meet our staffs needs and covid concerns.

We really would love to hear how you and your company have adapted or developed your working practices over the past 24 months.