The pandemic has ushered in many changes to the way we work including working from home and flexible working. But another change to our work week could be on the way soon – the four day week. Labour MP Peter Dowd has recently tabled a bill in parliament that would reduce maximum working hours from 48 to 32.
Around 70 companies in the UK are currently taking part in a pilot to see how a four day week might benefit their employees, their company, the economy and even the environment. Around 3,500 employees have been working a four day week with no loss of pay and an extra day off in the week. They can do what they like on that day – rest, life admin, volunteering or hobbies. Some are using it to reduce the cost of childcare or to help cope with other caring duties.
The deal these companies have made with their employees is based on a principle of the 100:80:100 model. Employees get paid 100% of their salary for working 80% of the time but commit to keeping to 100% of productivity.
On paper, it’s not difficult to see why a four day week might be attractive for employees but why are employers also very interested in the idea?
Benefits to employees
An extra day away from work each week can have more than just practical benefits for employees. More rest, time spent with family and friends or doing hobbies; or simply keeping on top of all those annoying bits of admin can lead to a real boost in work/life balance and noticeable mental health benefits.
Going to work costs money so one less day in the office can help employees with the increased cost of living, especially if it reduces childcare or travel costs.
Benefits to employers
There is evidence to show that moving to a four day week model actually increases productivity and boosts profits because of lower costs.
What’s more, employers who are offering a four day week will be able to attract the best talent and retention of those employees will be easier. Sick days will be reduced and incidences of stress and mental health issues should reduce.
Benefits to the environment
Working four days per week frees up employees to be able to lead a more sustainable lifestyle – they can grow their own food, cook from scratch or choose active travel options such as cycling.
And of course, it’s one fewer day each week when the car will be on the road or energy is used for all the office-based equipment.
Is a four day week right for your business?
A shorter working week won’t work for all companies and some employees might not be interested in the idea either so flexibility is going to be key. But if it’s something you want to explore further, start a conversation with your staff, perhaps via the HR department to see whether it’s something they’d welcome. If you have a union rep as one of your employees, it would be worth engaging with them too.
It will be important to reassure the team that it isn’t something you’re considering due to financial pressures and that they will still be paid the same. In fact, the only thing that won’t change if you move to a four day week, even on a trial basis, is your payroll!