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The 4-day work week: can it work for your business?

The four-day week debate has been bubbling amongst businesses and their employees for a while, especially as the Covid-19 pandemic changed the way a lot of companies work. More than 70 companies in the UK are taking part in a six-month trial to work one day less, with full pay and a commitment to keep up their usual productivity levels. The big question is, could it work for your business?

According to a nationwide survey, the average British office employee is productive for only 3 hours of actual work per day, despite working longer hours than anywhere else in Europe. If this survey is anything to go by, could there be productivity benefits to a four-day week?

How does the 4-day week actually work?

Employees get to work 4-days a week, instead of the standard five, but with 100% pay. There are different models to how this might work; for example, everyone can take say a Friday off and have a longer weekend, or rotate a different day off each week so that your business continually has cover.

The concept is known as the 100:80:100 model, as workers will receive 100% of pay for 80% of their time but they must agree to give 100% productivity.

At first, that might sound a little generous, but let’s look in more detail to see if it’s something that might be right for your business.

Reframing your team’s thinking

The 4-day week is not just about working less, it’s working less hours with greater productivity. This new working structure will require a change in mindset from the top down so that the business is output-focused, not time-focused. Clear boundaries also need to be established in order to facilitate this culture change effectively.

Business owners and managers need to ensure that their teams are able to continue to complete the relevant tasks by working smarter and harder, without creating a competitive and stressful environment.

Businesses may need to look closely at their technology in order to support increased productivity, automate tasks and be able to successfully reduce working hours without cutting pay.

Attracting and retaining talent

Flexibility in the workplace is a benefit that encourages workers to stay at their company and, as a result, leads to job retention.

If you are offering a strong work-life balance to prospective employees, it can be a great way to attract the right talent. It can also widen your geographical pool of candidates if employees are only required to commute into the office for four days instead of the standard five.

It remains to be seen whether a four-day week will be a successful structure for the UK workforce, and it certainly won’t suit every business model.  Companies who are more customer-facing will still require their teams to be at the other end of the phone/email five days a week.

Some employees may also find it stressful trying to cram five days’ worth of work into four, with their work-life balance taking even more of a hit. 

It’s important for employers to keep an open mind and consider trialling it before putting any hard and fast new procedures into place. At the end of the day, employee health and wellbeing should always be a top priority, and companies need to be continually looking at innovative ways to ensure a healthy work-life balance is achieved regardless of the hours worked.

If you could like any help or advice about how a four-day week has worked for some of our clients, talk to one of our friendly team today for more information.

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