The Four-Day Work Week: Here’s the latest research
Career

The Four-Day Work Week: Here’s the latest research

Can a 4 day week work?

November 17th, 2022
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Helina.

Marketing Manager

How we work has significantly changed as a result of the pandemic. For example, remote and hybrid working is becoming more and more common across the workplace.

 

There has been a lot of focus on where and when we work, but attention has now turned to also questioning how much we work.

 

Currently being trialled across the globe is the 4-day working week 🌍

 

Can it work? Let’s discuss what has been explored so far.

 

 

The UK Trial 💡

At present, 70 companies and over 3,000 employees in the UK are participating in a 6-month trial of a 4-day work week. They are working for the same salary whilst being expected to maintain the same level of productivity. Various businesses are taking part, including recruitment agencies through to a local fish and chip shop.

 

The 4-day work week has already seen success in Iceland. A trial from 2015 to 2019 was so successful that many workers began working shorter hours after it finished. Over 2,500 workers from various workplaces took part with productivity either remaining the same or improving across many workplaces. Plus, employees reported less stress and an improved work-life balance.

 

To decide if the UK’s trial was successful, researchers will be looking at several factors. They will want to see reduced burnout, less stress, and improved work-life balance for employees whilst maintaining the same or increased level of productivity.

 

 

Potential pitfalls ⚠️

Juliet Schor, the lead researcher of the Global 4-day week project, admits that the 4-day work week may not work for all professions and industries. For example, we are still not seeing enough GP appointments for the public, so shortening the work week within health care would do more harm than good.

 

Therefore, as much as a 4-day work week could be beneficial for organisations, employers and employees need to be aware of the potential pitfalls that come with adopting a 4-day work week.

 

Reduced working hours doesn’t automatically reduce work ⛔📉

 

Research has found that employees with more intensive workloads are more prone to ruminate on work they need to do. This prevents them from entirely ‘switching off’ outside of working hours.

 

It is always helpful to question whether your employees would work best across four days or the hours of 4 days over the 5 typical working days instead. You may find that your people will flourish in a set-up you may not have considered yet.

 

 

The key 🔑 – One size does not fit all

It’s going to be all about experimenting with what works best for your people.

 

 

Reduced working hours should not increase the intensity of work ⛔💥

 

With one fewer day in the working week, work would inevitably need to go at a faster pace to maintain the same level of productivity.

 

From previous trials, this faster pace has received mixed reviews. In a New Zealand four-day working week trial, employees reported to having to take shorter breaks and spend less time socialising with their team in order to meet work demands. Whilst some reported to have liked the “full-on pace”, others stated that “the urgency and pressure was causing ‘heightened stress levels’”.

 

Therefore, for some, it can be a catch-22. Despite reducing hours to improve employee wellbeing, the increased pressure of needing to complete the same level of work in a reduced amount of time would undo all the good that would come from a shortened working week.

 

 

Success is found in the details 🔎✅

From what we have seen so far, the four-day work week does have potential. Its ability to improve employee well-being whilst maintaining productivity has been possible.

 

However, as with many things, success is found in the details. For one organisation, long-term employee wellbeing may come from it, whereas for others, it may not.

 

Having honest reflections on productivity and employee wellbeing compared to working hours will help organisations identify how they can best support their employees personally and professionally.

 

 

A 4-day work week may or may not be the answer.

 

To find out more about how to focus on your brand, get in touch today.
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