The Four-Day Week is Coming – as Long as it’s in the Office 

Published on
29/03/2023 04:36 PM
Four day week

Over a third of employers would be open to a four-day-week if it meant that staff spent their whole time working in the office. 

That’s according to a report by recruitment firm Hays, which surveyed nearly 12,000 professionals and employers from across the UK. 

The poll also found that 62 per cent of professionals said they would rather work a four-day week in the office than a five-day week on remote or hybrid-working models. 

Meanwhile, two in three would consider switching jobs if another company offered a shorter working week, an increase of just under 50 per cent compared to a similar poll recorded last year.  

This new appetitive for a four-day week arrives after a recent trial where 61 UK companies cut their employees’ working hours by 20 per cent without reducing their salary. 

The trial saw around 2,900 employees work a four-day week for six months from June 2022, to February 2023. 56 out of the 61 companies involved also opted to extend the four-day-week policy, while 18 already made the shorter hours permanent. 

Surveys following the trial saw that 39 per cent of staff felt less stressed thanks to reduced hours, while bosses reported an increase in revenue while productivity was constant. 

“It’s clear from our research that the appetite for a four-day working week has increased from both professionals and employers,” Gaelle Blake, of Hays UK and Ireland said in response to the findings. 

“However, in reality, only 5% of respondents to our survey are working for an organisation where this is actually happening,” Blake noted.

A perk for a perk 

Of those surveyed working a four-day week, 92 per cent told Hays that working a four-day week has had a positive impact on their home life, while 84 per cent said it had a positive impact on their professional life. 

While this demonstrates the positive impact of a reduced-hour working model, experts warn that organisations may be inclined to eradicate flexible-working-related perks in a bid to lower its impact on business operations.

A number of companies have already pushed their workers to return to the office despite support for flexible working remaining high. 

As the BBC reports, some employers have begun offering workers a variety of new incentives, including doggy daycare, well-being zones, team holidays and unlimited taps in a bid to encourage employees to return to their desks. 

“A third of employers would support a 4 day week if they spent 4 days in the office. This suggests to me that a third of companies don't trust their employees and feel they would get more productivity if they were visible, Sally Wilson, Principal, and Executive Interim at GatenbySanderson told her LinkedIn followers

“Where has the trust gone that was built up pre and during the pandemic? Wouldn't an empowered workforce that was able to deliver in the way that works best for them be the most productive workforce? And that includes those who would benefit from compressed hours and a four-day week. 

Despite companies pushing for office work, support for flexible working remains popular over three years after the lockdown confined workers to their home offices. 

Bloomberg recently found that 73 per cent of Londoners would rather leave their job than give up working from home full-time, with almost half requiring a pay increase of 16 per cent to reconsider this position. 

To read more about flexible working, visit our dedicated Business Agility Page.

Though the study does show overwhelming support for a four-day week, whether it would entice workers to sacrifice the comfort of working from home is yet to be seen. 

“Organisations were quick to adopt hybrid working as a result of the pandemic, however, the four-day week is a much cultural and operational shift for many organisations,” Blake explained. 

She said Hays’ research showed the importance of flexibility, as professionals say they are willing to travel into the office more often if employers are willing to be fluid with their working days.

“Whilst the four-day working week is an attractive offering for workers, there are lots of ways for employers to stand out from the crowd by allowing staff flexibility in the form of hybrid working, flexible hours and more,” Blake added. 

The four-day week isn't for everyone 

While the trial of the four-day week garnered generally positive feedback from participants, it should be noted that the working model will not work for everyone. 

Tech and office-based industries have the greatest inroads in reducing work hours since they can implement easy, time-saving solutions quickly and effectively without damaging productivity. 

In other sectors such as retail and hospitality, shortening the working week requires re-thinking long-established laws and regulations, which brings new risks and challenges to organisations. 

But so far governments around the world have shown little interest in introducing measures that would encourage organisations to move towards a four-day week work model. 

Business minister Martin Callanan said in September that ministers had not looked into the costs and benefits, while fellow conservative peer Howard Leigh claims it would have a "devastating effect", making it hard for staff to "work effectively" together if some are not available.

Regardless, the trial in the UK was the world’s biggest and grabbed attention across the globe in places including Bangkok, India and Australia 

US Senator Bernie Sanders even tweeted about it. He told his followers: "it’s time to move toward a four-day work week."

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