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The Four-Day Work Week - Is it the new norm?

The basic 9-5 mentality is something that most people are used to and working a five-day week with two days off at the weekend is simply second nature to most. But who's to say this isn't changing? With many companies now introducing the 4-day work week, we're going to take a look at some of the benefits it could provide for your company, along with the possible risks.

With the world's largest four-day work week trial currently in full swing across the UK, with thousands of employees and over 70 UK businesses involved - is this a viable solution for businesses or is it just another trend that is put in place to attract the top talent?

According to new data from CV Library, there has been a 90% year-on-year rise in job adverts that are now offering a four-day work week as part of the role - with 44% of the UK workforce now believing that this is going to become the new 'normal' within the next five years, and over half of them are now saying that they would be tempted to change roles if a company offered them a four-day work week.

Employers around the world started to offer more flexibility when it came down to working arrangements during the Covid-19 pandemic, consisting mainly of the work from home arrangement. For the last few years, particularly accelerating in 2021, employers have been dealing with widespread labour shortages, which all falls onto the 'Great Resignation'. Workers have been quitting their jobs based upon the lack of opportunities, low pay, childcare issues, lack of flexibility and many other reasons, stated by Pew Research Centre's study.

Due to these reasons, along with other factors, there's a growing number of employers that are receptive towards the idea of a four-day work week. Company leaders believe that offering a shortened schedule will give them the "competitive edge" when it comes down to recruiting and retaining existing employees.

The Perks

With many employers wanting to have the "competitive edge", what are some of the perks that the four-day work week can bring?

Recruitment & Retention - In the age of the millennial, having the ability to offer a flexible work pattern is a perk that can persuade employees to stay at a particular company. Research has shown that 63% of businesses find it easier to attract and retain quality staff with a four-day working week.

Having this work-life balance benefit is still a relatively rare offering, however research has shown that it's actually a great way to get the best talent through your door, whilst also keeping them engaged at the same time.

Productivity Increase - More often than not, discontented staff experience a lack of productivity, and it can result in a lack of office morale and even distracting their co-workers. The general theory behind a shorter week is that happier, more fulfilled employees are more focused on their role when they're in the workplace.

One worry about the shortened work week is that there's now a risk of less productivity due to the hours being put into 4 days over 5. However, New Zealand based company, Perpetual Guardian, conducted a trial of the four-day work week. Not only did employees maintain the same productivity level, but they have also shown improvements in job satisfaction, teamwork, work/life balance and even company loyalty - employees have also experienced less stress with a decrease of 45% to 38%.

Reduced Costs - Another perk is that the four-day work week can cut costs for everyone. The obvious one is that the office will be closed for one extra day a week, meaning that running costs will see a significant drop. Additionally, your employees will be paying less to commute, and they will also see a cut in costs with their expenses like their lunches and coffees during the day.

The Challenges

While there are plenty of benefits to a four-day work week, and more than we have discussed, there will of course be some disadvantages. Implementing a four-day week can be quite difficult as it requires the right support, technology, and workplace culture. With any new trend, these changes will encounter some challenges like the ones below:

Not Suitable for Every Business Model - Unfortunately, the four-day work week doesn't suit every business. This is an option that's only viable for companies that can re-adapt their entire business to a new way of working. Adopting a different way of working is a big step for any business, so this is something you need to consider before making that jump.

Coverage - Many business leaders will worry that there won't be adequate coverage for customers and co-workers. For some organisations, half of the four-day workforce takes off on Monday's, whilst the other half takes off on Friday's - which will provide coverage for clients. The need to have your team ready and available for customers, or to even assist other members of the group, may end up limiting your ability to compress the typical work week.

Internal Challenges - Depending on the business, there may be sections of your company that can shift to a four-day week, whilst other's may not be able to. Unless you have the plan to shut down the production line and live with the ripple effects that it can cause, office workers could have the option, however not front-liners. This poses as a risk for your business as it has the chance to result in resentment. If you're considering a change, you need to make sure that it can apply equally to all departments.

Is the four-day week worth it?

There are many companies and workers that have succeeded with a condensed work week and have thoroughly enjoyed the benefits such as increased productivity and more time to pursue personal interests and goals. However, the four-day work week schedule doesn't work for all industries, businesses, or employees.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced the re-evaluation of work, it drove an increase in the idea for the four-day week - but making it the new 'normal' will require making a cultural and mindset shift that de-emphasises work - which will mean taking a hard look at work activities that can be automated, de-prioritised, or even dropped entirely, as well as overcoming the discomfort around change.

It's going to be interesting to see the results of the UK's trial - let us know your opinion on the matter!

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