With many employees returning back to the office after working from home during the pandemic, it may seem like a step back in terms of work-life balance, as employees are having to adjust to commuting and adhering to set office hours again. A 4-day week can be seen as a solution to this problem and have a positive effect on employee morale, productivity and job satisfaction.
The results for the world’s largest 4-day week trial, conducted in the UK, reported positive feedback from both companies and employees. Now, many employers are starting to wonder: “could this work for us?”. We weigh up some key pros and cons to factor in when considering a 4-day work week
The 4-day week trial and its results:
The trial was conducted by 4 Day Week Global, who advocates for, well, a 4-day work week. Back in June last year, 4 Day Week Global supported 61 UK companies and a total of 2,900 employees in implementing the changes. With the trial ending in December, Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, described the trial to be a ‘major breakthrough moment’.
Let’s look at the results:
- 56 out of 61 companies have extended the 4-day trial, including 18 who have made it permanent
- 54% of employees said it was easier to balance work and home life.
- 71% of employees said they were less stressed.
- 40% says they’re sleeping better.
- Most of the companies were satisfied with the productivity and business performance over the trial period.
- Many of the companies’ revenues stayed broadly the same, rising by 1.4% on average.
The pros and cons of a 4-day work week can vary depending on the industry, company, and individual circumstances – here’s a few we think you should consider.
The benefits of a 4-day work week:
Improved work-life balance and mental health:
With the extra day to run errands, do chores, spend time with family and friends or just lounge around, it allows employees to wind down, relax and concentrate on other aspects of their life.
Having more time to do the things they enjoy will increase their happiness and naturally improve their mental health and wellbeing.
Increase in productivity and motivation:
As employees can wind down or run errands during the extra day off, they come back rested and motivated, so they are able to concentrate on work and increasing their productivity.
By closing the office down for an extra day each week, companies will save money on utilities and overhead costs. Employees will benefit from saving money on things like transportation and childcare costs.
Recruitment and Retention:
A study conducted in 2019 reported that 63% of businesses who implemented a 4-day work week helped them attract and retain talent. (https://www.4dayweek.com)
Flexible working patterns such as hybrid or remote working and shorter workweeks have increasingly become popular selling points for attracting and retaining talent. The trial results showed that 15% of the 2,900 employees who participated expressed that no amount of money would induce them to accept a 5-day work week.
The disadvantages of a 4-day work week:
As employees are not available during traditional working hours, it can be difficult to schedule meetings and business events and may require the employee to work during what is supposedly their day off to meet the business needs.
Customers and suppliers will also need to adjust to the company’s new operating schedule and may require them to wait longer for responses to any queries they might have.
Difficulty Meeting Deadlines:
Shorter working times can result in employees being unable to complete tasks that are required for the business operations to run smoothly. This can lead to employees taking work home to ensure they meet deadlines, resulting in employees feeling burnt out and stressed.
Possible Longer Working Hours and Reduced Pay:
Longer working hours may be implemented to ensure that business goals and targets are met, which could lead to fatigue, burnout and mental health issues.
Some companies may argue that, as employees are working less, their salary will need to be adjusted, which can cause stress as it will affect an employee’s financial requirements.
The feasibility and effectiveness of a 4-day work week will depend on a variety of factors, such as the nature of work, industry, company culture and the needs of both employers and employees.
Before companies can implement these changes, they will need to carefully consider the benefits and drawbacks that would affect their business’ overall operations, productivity and their employees’ wellbeing.
Ultimately, the success of a 4-day week would depend on whether it benefits both the company and employees.