Advice for Employers

Why We Need a Four-day Week?


The time people spend in the workplace has varied dramatically throughout history, and still today varies widely between countries. What we consider ‘natural’ today, is a relatively recent convention. The nine-to-five, five-days-a-week model for full-time work has been dominant for just 50 years, and is rapidly beginning to change. The shortening of the working week - without a loss in pay - has been a demand of workers’ movements, the ambition of enlightened employers, the utopia of intellectuals, and the prediction of economists for well over one hundred years. It was through their combined efforts that the five-day, 40-hour a week model of work we know today was achieved. Our particular historical moment gives extra urgency to revisiting what has become normalised. Reducing the working week is a powerful and pragmatic response to a series of deeply embedded and interconnected problems within the UK economy that were already set to be exacerbated in the coming decades, and have only been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Phenomena such as the rise of zero-hour contracts, overwork, the impact of automation, gender inequality, stagnating productivity, continued job polarisation and vast income inequality will only be rectified through structural changes to the nature of work. There is a growing consensus that a shorter working week has a powerful potential to act as an immediate salve and a longer-term catalyst to address these problems.




Why a Four-day Week is Good for Your Organisation?


Improving staff wellbeing and happiness, and building a stronger business are one and the same thing. While a happy workforce is a noble aim in itself, the byproducts have many commercial benefits:

  • Sickness - One in four sick days are a direct result of overwork. A four-day week would reduce sickness-related absences and presenteeism.
  • Retention - Replacing a single staff member costs £30,000. A four-day week is a tangible incentive to improve retention, reducing costs and disruption.
  • Innovation - Rested minds are more creative and more likely to imagine and discover new and better ways to run your business..
  • Recruitment - A four-day makes your organisation stand out from others in the field and more attractive to talent.
​​ Increasingly, a company's image is a key aspect of its success. A four-day week is a great way to create a brand that shows your customers that you are a forward-thinking, ethical and socially responsible company:
  • Sustainability - Reduce the ecological footprint of your organisation by reducing commuting, and carbon-intensive consumption patterns like buying packaged sandwiches and take away coffees.
  • Care Friendly - Whether for a young child, an elderly parent, or someone else with caring needs, having time away from work to care for those closest to you is of growing importance in our society.
  • Gender Equality - Women are far more likely to take an unequal share of caring responsibilities, often locking them out of full time, secure, well-paid work. A four-day week creates time for all workers to take on their fair share of caring.
It is increasingly recognised that a positive company culture is key to a successful business. A four-day week is a powerful way to shape a positive ethos in the workplace:
  • Awareness - A greater awareness of workload and time management amongst staff is critical to scheduling, budgeting and delivering time-dependent projects.
  • Balance - Throwing everything you have at a project is, in the long-term, self-defeating. Learning to balance work alongside other aspects of life encourages sustainable and consistent performance.
  • Richness - What we do outside of work inevitably feeds into our work. Time to follow our interests, socialise and gain new skills and knowledge, allows staff to return to work with enthusiasm and vitality.




How to Implement a Four-day Week in Your Organisation


  • Consider the 'Change Curve' - While some relish it, to many people change is difficult. Through effective communication of what to expect and what the benefits will be, this journey can be made much easier.
  • Launch a scoping exercise with staff first to find out how it could be implemented and why the company is deciding to do it - it’s important to have these questions addressed before going ahead.
  • Get buy-in from staff as early as possible by launching a full consultation beforehand.
  • If there are concerns about going straight for a permanent commitment, launch a 6 month trial first. Each organisation is different, and any challenges and/or issues to be overcome that arise from a shorter working week will vary. An organisation-specific trial, designed collaboratively with staff and management, will answer the question of how a four-day week can be the best way forward for the specific firm in question.
  • Assess processes and results - If your organisation has taken the plunge and started implementing the four-day week, monitoring its implementation is an effective way of addressing bumps in the road as they arise: is the shift working? And if not, why not? Based on this analysis, organisations can then decide whether to make the move permanent and/or expand the scheme to their entire workforce.




Resources


See our Reports and FAQs pages for more information on why and how to move to a four-day week.





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