Trials for the four-day working week have proved successful in both Iceland and Scotland, with excitement for their progress being widely publicised across the UK for having a dramatic increase on the personal wellbeing of employees.
An increasing number of businesses in the UK are now signing up for a trial of the four-day working week as they aim to replicate the increase in productivity and employee satisfaction that the scheme has proved. The promise of both a happier workforce and increased output for fewer hours of work is enticing for employers and employees alike.
Discussing the potential logistics of the four-day working week for SMEs who are looking to trial the scheme, George Miller, employment lawyer at Richard Nelson LLP, has outlined the advantages and disadvantages below
- Improved recruitment potential for the business
Employees are seeking greater flexibility from employers after the impact of the pandemic. Whereas before, employers held the power to decide when employees were able to work from home, today we see policies where employees are able to shift to an entirely flexible working programme where they can work from anywhere in the world.
Being able to offer a four-day working week programme is an asset for employers which can significantly enhance their employee benefits package. In a job market where we are seeing employees move roles at rapid paces, it is crucial for SMEs to ensure their employment policy can meet and exceed the needs of their current employees and any future hires. Having a four-day working week offering is an additional asset to recruit new talent and stand out amongst the competition.
However, for some smaller businesses, shifting to a four-day week may mean that employees’ holiday allowance will be reduced. If the working hours of employees are reduced in line with the scheme, employers often have to recalculate the holiday entitlement of employees which can mean the overall offering to future employees is less attractive than other industry players.
- Offers a better work-life balance to employees
Switching to a four-day working week provides employees with an extra day to spend how they wish. This could be on their own hobbies such as DIY or gardening, visiting friends and family, or simply winding down from the week.
For those with families or commitments outside of their work, it ensures a more equal workplace as employees can spend more time with their family without the pressure of juggling this alongside their 9-5 job.
- Gives employees a better work-life balance
A four-day working week gives employees an extra day over the weekend to visit the high street, or spend on their hobbies such as DIY, and gardening. It can also ensure a more equal workplace, with employees being able to spend more time with their families and better juggle care and work commitments.
- Improved productivity for the business
Trials of the four-day working week showed that employees were able to better focus on their job after having more time to recharge away from work. This meant businesses saw an increase in productivity at no extra cost as employees could more effectively balance their home and work life, leaving them feeling happier and more fulfilled.
However, for businesses who are considering shifting the same 40-hour week to four days instead of five, employees could be working up to 10 hours a day. Here, these longer days could have an impact on employees’ stress levels and therefore negatively impact productivity in the long run.
Measuring the success of a four-day working week trial
Before looking to adopt a four-day working week, employers should consider a trial run with set objectives to identify what they wish to achieve from the scheme. Employees should have access to information regarding the goals of the trial and an understanding of the way they will be managed under the trial.
During the trial, employers should be closely monitoring performance to understand which parts of the scheme are successful and which parts may need adjustment. Employees should be involved in this process, where feedback is gathered from staff to understand how the trial is impacting their mental health, productivity and attitude towards the company.
After the trial has been completed, the results should be compiled and finalised to identify what the key takeaways were and what areas require further work. There will be necessary adjustments to make as the business grows and changes, with a feedback loop where management and employees can continually work to improve the workplace goals and outcomes.