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14 June 2022

The four-day workweek – is it the future?

4 mins

This month sees the launch of a large pilot scheme trialing whether companies can achieve 100% productivity (or more), for a 20% reduction of input from employees’ time, with no salary reduction.

Over 70 UK companies and organisations are taking part, making it the biggest ever trial of a four-day workweek to date. If successful, this scheme plans to be mutually beneficial to both employees and employers – employers will benefit from higher profits and retain a happy work force, and employees will enjoy a better work-life balance.

A four-day workweek does not only benefit the individual employer and employee. There are also notable benefits to the population and environment as a whole.

Benefits to the economy

Firstly, it will benefit the economy. The UK is overworked, working longer hours than most of Europe, but concurrently suffers from unemployment. This initiative would rebalance the economy and address issues relating to both unemployment and burnt-out staff. A study has also found that 63% of businesses found it easier to attract and retain talent with a four-day workweek, and therefore this could also be an approach for companies struggling to fill vacancies to consider. It is also a possibility with the population’s increased spare time that sectors such as tourism will prosper. 

Benefits to the environment

Secondly, it will benefit the environment. Fewer working days in a week will reduce the UK’s carbon footprint. Research has shown it could be reduced by 127 million tonnes per year, the equivalent of taking 27 million cars off the road. Companies that take part would pride themselves in being more sustainable. The general population would also likely lead a more sustainable lifestyle with smaller changes such as buying less convenient food and drinks out-and-about in disposable packaging, cooking with fresh ingredients, and having more leisure time to perhaps cycle to destinations rather than driving.

Benefits to society

Thirdly, society as a whole will benefit from better health, both physically and mentally, with the increased time they have to devote to their wellbeing. Fewer working days in a week will also boost gender equality, with a more equal share of paid and unpaid work.

We look forward to seeing the results of this six-month trial and indeed if employers seek to adopt a four-day workweek.

Considerations for employers

If employers wish to adopt a shorter workweek, there are some vital considerations to bear in mind.

Most importantly, a reduction in hours must come with a revision of each employee’s workload. It is quite possible that the workload will need to be reduced, otherwise the initiative will not be successful in reducing sickness absence, staff retention, or innovation if staff cannot manage their previous workload in their new and reduced hours.

There will also be the task of changing contractual terms and conditions, which will need to be done with the agreement of employees. Consideration will have to be given to how to deal with part-time employees’ hours and also whether holiday entitlement will be affected.

Whatever the outcome, it is apparent that as time progresses, changes must be made within the workplace, hence why there are more ways of flexible working being introduced. These new approaches to work aim to:

  • Tackle sickness absence that can cost businesses thousands of pounds
  • Prevent disgruntled workforces who feel they are overworked, which in turn affects their wellbeing
  • Produce a generation that are passionate and determined to reduce our carbon footprint and tackle environmental issues

Businesses do adapt to these various modern methods of working and if executed correctly, it can be beneficial to the business, the employee and wider society.

If you need any advice on the topics discussed in this article, please get in touch with our Employment team by submitting an enquiry form here.

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