FOUR-DAY WORKING WEEK

CAN THIS REALLY BECOME A REALITY FOR UK EMPLOYERS?

January 24, 2022

Thirty UK companies have just started a trial to introduce a four-day working week for the next six months – They will be paying their employees the same as a five-day week and targeting increased overall productivity as their employees benefit from a three-day weekend. – The100-80-100 principle;

-     Paying 100% to their people

-     For 80% of the traditional working week

-     Achieving 100% productivity

The trial is overseen by the 4 Day Week Campaign, thinktank Autonomy,  Oxford & Cambridge Universities and Boston College. Similar trials in North America, Australia and Spain are also taking place this year.

My initial thoughts on this concept were sceptical and I am sure that I am not on my own. “How can we change working patterns that have been in play since the industrial revolution?” and  “How can you possibly achieve more in 80% of the time?”

The impact in the manufacturing, engineering and construction sectors would be significant. The accounting, legal, banking and recruitment sectors are not renowned for being the automatic destination for staff looking for “reduced hours”, so how can this concept start? Some of the facts below were published in the Sunday Times this week and are just going to make me keep an open mind;

-     Microsoft in Japan made this change in 2019 and state that productivity has increased by 40%.

-     Many UK businesses looked down on the French 35 hour working week cap, but ONS data has suggested that their worker productivity is 18% higher than the UK – largely down to reduced stress levels. The French are considering reducing this to 32 hours now.

-     We currently lose 17.9 million days a year in Great Britain to stress, anxiety or depression.

-     Atom Bank, Canon and Iceland have already or recently introduced four-day working weeks.

 

I suspect that this is a subject that will be met with some resistance by many employers in the UK and the list of objections will be large. We would have our own challenges in Pratap Partnership in making it work – We would still be open five days a week, but surely our clients and candidates would like to be able to speak to their consultant when the need arises? It is interesting to read that another recruiter is interviewed in the Sunday Times article – they have made the four-day working week a success – better for their team and with no impact to their clients and candidate.

Many of our candidates are telling us that they want abetter balance to their lives every week. We can see that there is a larger percentage of the workforce struggling with their mental health. Finally, the lockdowns have shown us that longer hours is not necessarily the best route to higher productivity.

It is positive to see this trial and campaign taking place and we will look forward to hearing the results achieved, challenges and lessons for everyone.

A link to the article in the Sunday Times can be found here (subscription needed). Most of the national news platforms have reported on the news in the past week

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