Following on from various lockdowns across the world, there has been much talk around the four-day working week. In the UK, the topic made the headlines in September 2021 when Scotland announced it was trailing a four-day work week. In recent years there have been multiple instances of this work structure being trialled across the globe with some great success! Iceland’s 4-year trial found that in the majority of work settings, productivity either improved or remained the same. Perhaps even more encouraging, Microsoft’s Japan subsidiary reported a 40% up-lift in productivity following their four-day work week experiment.
Recent studies show this model to be promising for productivity and work-life balance. However, is it practical for all companies to move to this model? Below we outline some points that need to be considered before moving to a four-day working week.
Different industries work in different ways
Shortening the working week might be a relatively easy switch for companies that are predominantly office-based Monday to Friday. But what about retail workers, energy providers, transport sectors, emergency services or other businesses that provide 24-hour services? Switching to a four-day work week in these industries, may prove more difficult due to the differing shift patterns. However, while it may be more difficult, it is not entirely impossible. Ultimately, the premise of a four-day work week is to provide your employees with a more equal work-life balance. Whether that be in the form of a four-day work week, examining the break periods between shifts, offering more holiday or something completely different. It is up to each individual company to evaluate their business models to find a solution that works best for everyone.
Logistics Play A Huge Part
Offering a four-day week to employees may not be as simple as giving everyone the same day off in a week. Many companies will not have the luxury of being able to close for a full day to account for this. It becomes even more complex if the business requires all staff on site for meetings or if there is a mix of home and office working. The logistics of offering a shorter week to staff will need to be managed and reviewed to ensure the business can continue to operate at the same level without disruption.
Less Days But More Hours
For many, a shorter work week may mean longer working days. This could be for a couple of reasons. One of the simpler explanations is that as a compromise for having a whole day off, employees are required to work longer shifts during the week. For example, employees must work 8am-6pm instead of 9am-5pm. This might equate for the ‘lost’ day or simply ensure the business is fully operational. Alternatively, longer days could naturally happen as a consequence of a shorter week. As employees have less time to complete their objectives, they could potentially work more hours to ensure they meet deadlines. If this is the case, its worth questioning whether a four-day week is providing more of a work-life balance or if it is causing more stress.
The Customer Is Always Right
Of course, when making the decision to move to a four-day week model, you need to consider your customers and other stakeholders. How will this move impact them? How will it impact the service provided? It might be the case that if you are selling directly business to business, that your customers are already closed one day per week. However, for those working with the public, closing for a day is probably not an option. When deciding on a working model and looking at logistics, ensure you keep your client base at the centre of your decisions. It is important to ensure both your employees and your customers are happy.