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We can make the four-day working week a reality – and make it work for everyone. Here's how

The concept of a four day work week has gained significant traction in recent years. How do we make it a reality?

Here's how we make a four day working week work.

The concept of a four-day working week has gained significant traction in recent years, as both employers and employees seek a better work-life balance. But how close are we to making it a reality?

What are its key benefits and drawbacks, and how do we successfully implement it to benefit both employers and staff?

Several countries and companies have trialled the four-day working week with promising results. New Zealand’s Perpetual Guardian made headlines in 2018 when it reported increased productivity and employee satisfaction after a trial period. Similarly, Microsoft Japan’s 2019 experiment resulted in a 40% boost in productivity. Countries like Iceland have conducted extensive trials, with more than 2,500 workers participating and reporting positive outcomes.

In the UK, various companies have joined the trend, with Atom Bank and Unilever running successful trials. The Spanish government has also introduced a pilot programme to encourage businesses to adopt shorter work weeks without reducing salaries. These trials suggest a growing interest in re-evaluating traditional work schedules.

What are the benefits of the four-day working week?

Research indicates that a four-day working week can offer significant benefits to both employees and employers. For employees, the advantages are clear: reduced stress, better work-life balance, and increased job satisfaction. A study by the Henley Business School found that 64% of businesses that implemented a four-day week saw improvements in staff productivity.

Employers, on the other hand, benefit from increased efficiency, lower absenteeism, and higher employee retention rates. The same Henley study highlighted that 78% of employees were happier and less stressed, leading to a more engaged and motivated workforce. Furthermore, a condensed work schedule can enhance company loyalty and attract top talent seeking flexible working conditions.

Are there any downsides to the four-day working week?

Despite its advantages, the four-day work week is not without challenges. One primary concern is the potential for increased workload during the shorter working days, which can lead to employee burnout. Not all industries or roles are suited to a condensed work schedule, particularly those requiring continuous customer support or operational coverage.

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From an employer’s perspective, implementing a four-day week can entail significant logistical and financial challenges. Adjusting salaries, reconfiguring work processes, and ensuring consistent productivity can be daunting tasks. Additionally, there is the risk that the reduction in hours may not necessarily translate into sustained productivity increases, especially in highly collaborative or creative fields where spontaneous interactions and longer brainstorming sessions are vital.

How to make sure it works for everyone

Despite growing interest, four-day working week jobs remain relatively scarce. Our study of job websites across the UK found that only 1.61% of jobs being advertised are offering a four-day week. This scarcity is partly due to the perceived risks and logistical challenges of restructuring traditional work patterns. However, the increasing demand for flexible working conditions suggests that more companies may consider this model in the future.

For the shorter working week to become a viable reality for more businesses, a strategic approach is essential. Firstly, clear communication and comprehensive planning are crucial. Companies should involve employees in the decision-making process, gather feedback, and address concerns proactively. Pilot programmes, like those seen in New Zealand and Japan, allow companies to assess the feasibility and impact of the new schedule.

Secondly, technology can play a pivotal role in facilitating a successful transition. Leveraging project management tools, collaboration platforms, and automation can help maintain productivity and streamline workflows. Employers should also consider flexible arrangements, such as staggered work hours, to ensure continuous coverage and support.

Lastly, measuring and evaluating outcomes is vital. Setting clear metrics for productivity, employee satisfaction, and overall performance can help businesses identify what works and what needs adjustment. Regular reviews and willingness to adapt based on feedback will ensure that the four-day working week benefits both employers and employees.

The four-day week presents an exciting opportunity to redefine traditional work patterns and improve work-life balance. While it offers numerous benefits, careful planning and implementation are necessary to mitigate potential downsides. By adopting a strategic and flexible approach, businesses can make the four-day working week a reality, creating a more productive, satisfied, and loyal workforce.

Andrew Fennell is the Founder & Director at StandOut CV.

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