Championing
Wellbeing

The 4-day working week: How would this work practically & is it realistic?

The modern work environment is becoming increasingly flexible, with working from home is more and more common following the pandemic. As a result, flexible work patterns are proving to be invaluable to not only the productivity of workers but also to the improvement of their mental wellbeing. The call for a 4-day working week has been proposed in parliament to become a standard practice across businesses.

The 4 -day working week has already been trialed across the world and has proved to be a great success. Trials in Iceland led to unions renegotiating work patterns and now 86% of Iceland’s workforce have reduced their hours for the same pay or have at least gained the right to do so.

Here at Thrive Law, we decided to trial the 4-day working week ourselves. We pride ourselves on prioritising the well-being of our employees and felt this would be a good opportunity to see if there was anything else we could do as a company to give our workers the most flexible schedule possible.

So how can employers implement a 4-day working week? There are two main ways in which this system can be achieved:

 

Model 1: Condensed hours

  • This is where an employee works the full-time 40- hour standard across 4 days instead of 5. This is the equivalent of an extra two hours per day.
  • In our own trial of this model, we found it increased productivity of our employees.
  • An extra day of leisure time helps create a better work life balance which benefits employees and prevents burnout.
  • In a trial in Glasgow, it was found that a 4-day week increased productivity by 30%, and there was also a significant decrease 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.

 

Model 2: “True” 4-day week

  • This is where an employee works 4 standard working days, which works out as a 32-hour work week.
  • The proposals for this 4-day week suggest that employees should be paid the same for working fewer hours. Studies have shown that productivity increases in return.
  • In a trial in Sweden, they changed their working days to 6 hours per day similar to a 4 day week. As a result, there was less sick leave and productivity increased by 85% and employees also commented that their own health had improved.
  • This model may not be beneficial for companies with smaller number of employees as the reduced staffing may make day to day management difficult.

So what are the Pros and Cons of a 4 day-working week?

PROS

  • Increase in productivity
  • Better employee engagement
  • Reduced costs – running costs/ lunch etc for employees
  • Reduced carbon footprint
  • Happier employees by improving work-life balance
  • Potential for less health issues and better wellbeing
  • Recruitment and retention – by offering more flexible work pattern could retain employees

CONS

  • May not fit everyone’s schedule and not all industries would be able to implement a 4-day week
  • Potential inadequate coverage for customers and co-workers
  • Reduced hours could mean reduced work
  • Could result in longer hours and increased work-related stress if a condensed 4 day week is used
  • Difficult to calculate on a pro rated basis for existing part time workers; those who already work a four day week may expect an increased salary. 

FAQ’s surrounding a 4-day week… 

How would this work practically, is it realistic?

Yes! This method of working is definitely realistic, provided The company thinks through how best to set it up. One of the options is that the company is open only four days a week, and customers’ expectations are managed accordingly. Realistically, though, in most industries not all employees  could have the same day off as services need to be provided to customers/clients throughout the week. A company could therefore set up a rotation schedule to ensure there is sufficient staff coverage on all days a week. There isn’t really a standard approach that is applicable to all businesses. Employers will need to think practically how an alternative working week would impact the quality of the service they provide.

Is there a danger that the customers who use these companies might begin to feel a bit short-changed?

Provided the company communicates and manages customers’ expectations,  there is no reason for customers to feel short-changed. If anything, by employees working less days, they are more likely to produce better quality work for their customers as they will be more focused during the days they do work. During our trial we found that by sharing the workload amongst our employees, if someone is off work one day, then someone else would still be there to provide quality service.

What did Thrive Law learn from our own 4-day work week trial?

Having done the trial in our own firm, we found that it does improve staff mental health by having more flexible working. However, as previously mentioned, there is not a universal approach that works for every business. Employers must consider factors such as disabilities and childcare so that the 4-day week can suit everybody. By giving employees more leisure time, there is less chance of mental exhaustion and burnout. Working 5/7 days a week can be very overwhelming and lead to deterioration of mental health. Here at Thrive we prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of our employees. It is essential that people feel they have a good work life balance and by working one day less a week, a healthy balance is achievable.

How can Thrive Law help?

As an owner-run company, we know the pains of having to wear many hats and how time is precious. As qualified employment and HR lawyers, we know the consequences of getting HR decisions wrong. We work with you to let you focus on what you need to be doing in the business with the peace of mind that all letters and decisions are run past a qualified lawyer before you implement them.

When you partner with Thrive for outsourced HR support, we can reduce your stress and free you up to work on the business and to make HR decisions with confidence.

With people at the core of every successful business, keeping on top of the ever-changing legislation and making the most out of your people can be challenging, but we are here to help.

We can also support your business in the event an employee approaches ACAS or the employment tribunal

Get in touch today to invest in your business and make your HR stress free. Email enquiries@thrivelaw.co.uk

Disclaimer

Please note this blog is for reference purposes only and is only accurate at the date it was published. 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 at enquiries@thrivelaw.co.uk

 

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