It was revealed this year that almost every UK company that took part in the world’s biggest four-day week trial, organised by ‘4 Day Week Global’[i] has decided to continue with the reduced working hours model, with 92% of the 61 participating companies confirming the policy is a permanent change[ii].
While this shift towards a better work-life balance is promising, Adrian Lewis, Co-founder and Global Lead at Activ People HR advises caution to firms looking to follow suit and ensure they have the right systems in place to make this a success.
Adrian says, “The four-day working week is something many employees would value as it can help them achieve a better work-life balance. This in turn can make them more motivated and enthusiastic, which boosts productivity. It’s easy to see why firms might want to implement this model.
“However, we would urge caution and for employers to think carefully about offering a four-day week, as if not managed correctly, it can be detrimental to the business and to employees as they try to squeeze their workload into a shorter working week.”
The UK trail showed the main benefits of shorter working hours were around wellbeing with 39% of employees saying they were less stressed, and 71% having reduced levels of burnout at the end of the trial. Also, levels of anxiety, fatigue and sleep issues decreased, while mental and physical health both improved.
Results showed increased productivity and engagement too, with organisations reporting revenue increases of 35% on average, compared with other periods, and the number of staff leaving decreasing significantly, dropping by 57% over the trial period.
However, it hasn’t been plain sailing for all involved as it’s not a model that suits all businesses. Disadvantages reported included staff being exhausted by the time they reached their day off, and employers struggling to get staff cover or facing extra staff costs if the business is customer-facing such as a restaurant or shop[iii].
Adrian adds: “For firms considering implementing a four-day week, forward planning and adopting the right HR systems can ensure a smooth transition. Going digital and using tools like absence management software can offer an accurate way to keep track of staff, so they know who is off when, and allow managers to plan ahead.
“Digital tools give instance visibility over the workforce as well as accurate data on other absence such as sick days or holidays. This can help them spot any changes to behaviour which may indicate that the four-day week isn’t working for some.
“For example, if someone ends up stressed by trying to cram work into less days – this could lead to them taking more time off sick if they can’t cope. Identifying such patterns helps companies address any concerns promptly and make adjustments to maintain a healthy work environment.
“Introducing a four-day working week can bring substantial benefits when managed correctly and proactively monitored for changes in behaviour. Using digital tools can support the decision to offer this whilst at the same time staying attentive to any negative impacts.”
For more information on Activ People HR visit: www.activpeoplehr.co.uk.