In the UK, a six month pilot of the four day week starts in June 2022, involving more than 70 companies of varying size and from a wide range of industries and over 3,300 employees.
What is the 4 day week model?
Theoretically, a four day week working pattern should be exactly what it sounds like; employees work four days in each seven day week without extending the number of hours worked each day.
The UK trial uses the 100:80:100 approach:
- 100% pay
- 80% working days
- 100% productivity
Employees receive their full pay (100%), work four instead of five days each week (80%), and are expected to maintain the same level of productivity as they had previously achieved in a five day week (100%).
The benefits of a 4 day week to employers
How could this pattern of working be a good thing for businesses?
Easier to attract and retain employees
Research into the four day week conducted in New Zealand in collaboration with 4 Day Week Global concluded that 63% of businesses offering this way of working found it improved their attractiveness to job seekers and helped them to retain their existing workforce.
Less stressed and more productive workforce
With more hours away from work to spend time with loved ones, carry out life admin, and just rest, employee physical and mental health is likely to be improved. A happier workforce will take less time off sick, be more engaged, and ultimately more productive.
Lower costs and environmental impact (but only for some)
For businesses who take the four day week one step further and reduce their opening hours to match, there will be both cost and environmental impact savings. Where the 100:80:100 model is adopted, the costs of staff salaries may well remain the same, but savings will be made on factors such as utilities. From an environmental perspective, the reduced commute of the workforce and reduction in workplace utilities means that the company will have a smaller carbon footprint.
The downside of a 4 day week to employers
There are, however, several disadvantages of offering a four day week.
More work to arrange sufficient cover
Where a business wants to retain its original working hours of five, six, or seven days a week, the process of ensuring sufficient staff cover at all times may be more complicated. With a partial or whole workforce operating on a four day week, it will be necessary to stagger working hours.
Inconsistent customer contact
In customer facing roles such as account managers, employees will only be available to customers for four days each week. This inconsistency in customer contact may create problems with ongoing clients and reduce customer satisfaction.
Employees feel pressured to do more in less time
If employees are asked to be just as productive but for one less day each week, they may feel overworked and under pressure to perform. This may lead to employees invisibly working extra hours at home.
In response to the pandemic and the resulting Great Resignation, job seekers and employees are keen to work for a business that treats them well and values their contribution. Employers are therefore working hard to increase the benefits that they offer to their workforce, including flexible working hours.
Should the four day week trial provide conclusive evidence that this way of working can be effective and even of benefit to businesses, it is likely to be adopted as one more format of flexible working. Whether requesting a four day week becomes a legal right in the UK, as has happened in Belgium, is yet to be decided. However, the long-awaited changes to the UK Employment Bill may offer clarity in the months to come.