Working 9 to 5, 4 Days a Week…?

 

We’ve all heard the songs – 9 to 5 (Dolly Parton), Working for the Weekend (Loverboy), Friday (Rebecca Black) and, of course, I Can’t Wait For the Weekend to Begin (Michael Gray).

Lots of songs seem to be written about traditional working models, and traditional working days.

But increasingly, working patterns are becoming more flexible, and much smarter, with some people (including the Labour Party) calling for a four-day week to be standard across all buisnesses. Although five days a week model has been the norm throughout the 20th century, a recent Yougov poll found that only 6% liked this way of working.

So, here at Thrive we’re going to try it out – would a 4-day week work for businesses and employees? And will it work at Thrive?

Which model

There are two main ways in which the 4-day week can be achieved.

  • Condensed hours – This is where employees work the full-time standard 40 hours across 4-days rather than 5.
  • “True” 4-day week – This would be where an employee works 4 standard working days, which works out as a 32 hour work week.

Whilst both are nominally a 4-day week, there are significant differences between the two. The proposal from “true” 4-day week proponents is that employees should be paid the same, for essentially working fewer hours, arguing their productivity increases in turn. In Sweden, a trial took place for six hour working days, similar to a 4-day week in its set up. During the trial there was less sick leave, productivity increased by 85% and employees perceived that their own health had improved.

But an employer’s argument would be that employees are paid on the assumption of certain hours, and that those hours should be worked, should they not be paid on output instead? Is that approach just encouraging presenteeism? If truly equal or increased productivity can be proven, should the employee be forced to work those extra hours? This is especially a consideration given that a study has found that people who work one 10 hour day a week increase their risk of suffering a stroke by a third.

Here at Thrive, we have concluded that we will try the condensed hours model in our trial over August. This is because we’re so busy at the moment and only a small team that the involved employees simply cannot afford to sacrifice 8 hours a week at the moment!

Benefits

Advocates for a 4-day week highlight how it can improve the well being and productivity of employees.  It is also argued that an extra day off increases leisure time and helps to create a more sustainable work life balance which benefits employees and prevents burnout.

Glasgow marketing firm Pursuit ,which started a 4-day week, found that staff productivity increased by 30% alongside a dramatic reduction in sick days taken. They also had an unexpected benefit of removal of professional recruiter costs, because the working arrangement was so popular with prospective employees.

A 4-day week could see overhead costs reduce because the workplace is potentially closed for longer and environmentalists promote a 4-day week as a way for countries to reduce emissions.  So, a win win all round and definitely worth a try, in our opinion.

Concerns

While the benefits are persuasive there are potential pitfalls. Although a 4-day week is seen to be advantageous for health, a condensed hour model has significant chances of fatigue. It also increases the risk of eye strain from computer use. If employers wish to simply remodel usual hours into a 4-day week, a condensed model may be physically straining for employees and may require more consultation to introduce, especially as it may have significant effects on childcare arrangements and impact on those with disabilities too.

The practicality of a 4-day week for public sector workers has also been raised. Vital services such as medical and emergency services are required full time. If 4-day week introduction continues to increase there is a concern of a clear divide between white collar workers ,whose positions allow this, and those whose positions are needed all the time. However, you could say this in every sector, and it can be solved with careful planning and fair rotations of shifts.

Here at Thrive we had similar concerns; our clients need us five days a week. For this reason, our proposal is to introduce a roster system where individual employees work 4-days but there is always full service provision. This should give employees the benefits of working less but there should be no change to service from the perspective of the clients.  There will always be a solicitor available as well as other members of staff to support them.  We have done this by agreement with all full-time staff and it seems to have gone down well so far!

4-day future?

In Sweden, a trial took place for six hour working days, similar to a 4-day week in its set up. During the trial there was less sick leave, increased productivity by 85% and better perceived health by employees. However, the increased staffing costs ultimately led to the termination of the trial because it wasn’t seen as economically sustainable in requiring more staff to ensure a full-service output of essential public services. Although this trial therefore showed that a 4-day week is possible and beneficial, including for sectors that demand constant output, the un-sustainability is a concern for long term 4-day week adoption.

Realistically, the demand for reduced working hours among employees will persist in the years to come leaving both employers and employees to consider the best long-term arrangement. In the meantime, having a flexible working policy can increase employee well being and could one day provide a useful springboard into a newer working week arrangement.

Thrive Tribe Tested

As indicated, here at Thrive, we’ll be trialling our own 4-day week in August. Using the condensed hours model, we will all be taking one day a week, every week, to do our own thing.

We plan on sharing our thoughts throughout the trial on our social media channels, and we will be concluding with a video where we discuss what we learnt. Please feel free to get in touch with any of us, to ask about how it’s going!

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Written by Jodie and Alicia.

Important Notice

This page is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action. Please contact us if you have any questions

 

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