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The four-day work week: An ambitious pipe-dream or a welcome reality?

The four-day work week: An ambitious pipe-dream or a welcome reality?

The four-day working week is the innovative idea currently being trialled across 60 British companies following a dramatic increase in demand for remote work and a better work-life balance. The four-day week proposes the reduction of the standard 40 hour working week to 32 hours, for the same pay, benefits and bonuses. However, is it too good to be true? 

The recent pandemic led many companies and businesses to revaluate their working structures to include more flexible and hybrid schemes. Wyatt Watts, team leader at Platten’s Fish and Chips, one of the businesses trialling the scheme, reported significantly improved team morale since the business joined the trial. He hopes that the improved work-life balance will allow him to re-charge his batteries, boost his energy levels and increase his productivity.

The benefits of a four-day work week may include fewer health issues, increased workforce efficiency and reduced costs for both businesses and employees due to the reduction in commuting time and live office hours. Reflecting upon the pandemic’s impact on loved-ones and families, a four-day work week would also allow families and friends to spend more quality time together, an aspect which will naturally lead to an improvement in overall wellbeing. With the country’s current mental health crisis, would it not be worth considering the overall positive effect the 4-day work week could have on the population?     

However, some may argue that a four-day work week will lead to longer hours and increased stress-levels. Nevertheless, a four-day work week trial, launched in 2018 by a New Zealand financial services firm, suggests that this may not be the case. Perpetual Guardian found that 78% of its employees could more effectively balance their work and home life in comparison to the outdated five-day week. Additionally, Perpetual Guardian staff found scores given by workers regarding leadership, stimulation and commitment all increased compared with a pre-trial survey.

A four-day work week may also contribute to ending gender disparities regarding childcare and family responsibilities. Having an extra day off could allow women, typically the primary caregivers in a family, to feel more empowered to return to full time work after maternity leave. Statistics by Understanding Society show that only 27.8% of women are in full-time work or self-employment three years after childbirth compared to 90% of new fathers. This shows a clear divergence in career paths between women and men following the birth of a baby. Therefore, the harmonisation of a shorter working week could aid families in finding a household equilibrium, thus encouraging woman to enter the workforce and hold more positions of power.

Nevertheless, the four-day work week is not the only solution to an overworked and frazzled workforce. Mathilde Collin, CEO and co-founder of Front, a customer communication platform, feels that a four-day workweek is “not innovative enough”. She states that “if you try to make four days of inefficiencies versus five dates, it’s like the same thing at a reduced time”. Instead, Front has introduced ‘Flexible Fridays’. ‘Flexible Fridays’ allow Front’s employees to “choose what they do every Friday without any conflict of scheduled internal meetings”. This means that employees can use Fridays to catch up on deep work, spend time with family or take personal time. However, the company found that only 44% of their employees take Friday as a mixed-use day (spending some time on work and some time on personal activities), with 44.4% using Friday as a normal workday. Consequently, some may argue that ‘Flexible Fridays’ are just normal workdays hidden under the pretence of innovative working, whilst others may reason that the flexibility provides much needed autonomy over their work, schedule and deadlines.

Whether a business chooses to engage with the four-day working week or retain the traditional five-day week, it is clear that people’s working priorities are rapidly changing, with a much-needed work-life balance taking precedence over long hours and job induced burnout.

Of course, A 4 day working week may not work for every business but businesses willing to consider innovative working practices are likely to benefit in terms of recruitment and retention of employees. Definitely food for thought!

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Debbie Fellows
Debbie Fellows

Debbie Fellows



For more information, contact Debbie Fellows or any member of the Employment team on 03330 166582.