Belfast Telegraph

The 4 day working week. Is less more?

Katie Scott
Katie Scott
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Right now the hot topic most people are considering is ‘where’ staff are going to work, after more than a year of remote working it is no wonder it is at the fore. However, with the recent news that in the US, UK, and Ireland investment is being made to trial the benefits of the four day working week, is the ‘when’ people work getting the required attention in organisational planning and should it?

The goal of the programme is to test the benefits, with the aim of delivering consistent output, no impact to pay and all with the promise of delivering positives for both employers and employees. So as the sun beats down on me this week it sounds like a win for work-life balance! And who would argue with working one day less a week for the same pay?

The case for the four-day week for employees obviously includes work-life balance and flexibility. In turn for employers this can lead to benefits of such as attracting talent and increased productivity as happiness at work is frequently shown to lead to increased productivity. Some of the world’s most productive countries such as Norway, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands work on average around 27 hours a week.

In some sectors the employee’s output is the tangible service they are providing, be it retail to shoppers, or teachers to students, which would reduce their ability to deliver. For others, where this is not the case, there is definitely a case to explore, but it does beg the question if you are looking for more productivity from a four-day week, how are your jobs currently designed so that reducing the time people work by 20% would bring more productivity? Perhaps reviewing current roles and work processes will identify job efficiencies and uncover potential opportunities to add value within the five-days is a more attractive option for some employers.

In terms of attracting and retaining talent, I wholeheartedly agree that organisations need to review what their current position is, especially when analysing working policies beyond the impacts of the pandemic. The war for talent hasn’t simmered down, in fact it has opened the playing field and with the increasing employee demand for flexibility, the four-day week may provide a competitive advantage and create potential for a more diverse workforce.

 What I have learned in the last year both personally and working with clients is that flexibility is entirely personal. Yes, as someone who prefers to work under a certain element of time pressure, a four-day week could work for me, but it might look totally different for someone else. When considering whether to implement this as an organisation it requires careful consideration and management by employers; and engagement with employees to manage the potential trade-offs. It might not work for all, but in the pursuit of flexible working, while we are considering where we work in the future, surely it is also worth tabling?