It was revealed this year that almost every UK company that took part in the world’s biggest four-day week trial, organised by ‘4 Day Week Global'[i] has decided to continue with the reduced working hours model, with 92% of the 61 participating companies confirming the policy is a permanent change[ii].
While this shift towards a better work-life balance is promising, Adrian Lewis, Co-founder and Global Lead at Activ People HR advises caution to firms looking to follow suit and ensure they have the right systems in place to make this a success.
The four-day working week is something many employees would value as it can help them achieve a better work-life balance. However, we would urge caution and for employers to think carefully about offering a four-day week, as if not managed correctly, it can be detrimental to the business and to employees as they try to squeeze their workload into a shorter working week.
Adrian Lewis, Co-founder and Global Lead at Activ People HR
The UK trail showed the main benefits of shorter working hours were around wellbeing with 39% of employees saying they were less stressed, and 71% having reduced levels of burnout at the end of the trial. Also, levels of anxiety, fatigue and sleep issues decreased, while mental and physical health both improved.
Results showed increased productivity and engagement too, with organisations reporting revenue increases of 35% on average, compared with other periods, and the number of staff leaving decreasing significantly, dropping by 57% over the trial period.
However, it hasn’t been plain sailing for all involved as it’s not a model that suits all businesses. Disadvantages reported included staff being exhausted by the time they reached their day off, and employers struggling to get staff cover or facing extra staff costs if the business is customer-facing such as a restaurant or shop[iii].
Adrian emphasises the importance of strategic planning and effective HR systems for companies considering a four-day workweek. Adrian suggests that adopting digital tools, such as absence management software, can facilitate a smooth transition by providing accurate tracking of staff schedules and enabling managers to plan ahead.
These tools offer real-time visibility into the workforce and reliable data on absences, like sick days or holidays, allowing companies to identify potential issues, such as increased stress due to compressed work schedules, which could lead to more sick days. By detecting such patterns, businesses can promptly address concerns and make necessary adjustments to ensure a healthy work environment.
Introducing a four-day working week can bring substantial benefits when managed correctly and proactively monitored for changes in behaviour. Using digital tools can support the decision to offer this whilst at the same time staying attentive to any negative impacts.
Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.