A long bank holiday weekend is a glorious affair. Three days off instead of two. But what if this became a permanent routine for the working week. This new concept of the four-day working week has been successful in other countries with proven benefits to employers.
How the four-day working week works
The four-day working week can occur in several ways. In some instances, workplaces work longer hours Monday to Friday, doing ten-hour days rather than the standard eight hours. This means that employees still do forty-hour weeks but are compressed into fewer days. A study of over 10,000 workers at an Asian technology company found that when employees worked an extra 30% of hours, no more output was produced. Meaning that compressing the hours down may not have the desired effect.
Another method of reducing the week to four days has been by also reducing the number of hours that employees work. The weekly hours decrease from forty, down to thirty-two whilst maintaining the same salary. This isn’t as big of a reduction as you may first think. In the 1890s, the US estimated that manufacturing staff were working one hundred hours a week. This would have been over six days at least. However, by the mid-20th century, manufacturing employees were working forty-hour weeks. The drop in sixty hours was a huge but necessary thing as it improved morale and work-life balance.
Companies can reduce the weekly working hours thanks to the advancements in technology. With the use of chatbots and AI, there is less for workers to do allowing employees to do flexible hours and work remotely. If we have learnt anything from the covid pandemic, it’s that most companies can continue operating perfectly well with everyone working from home.
The benefits of a four-day working week
Multiple countries have trialled and found that the four-day working leads to several benefits. Iceland, New Zealand, and Spain have all had successful results from implementing the four-day week.
The reduced working week has proved to lower stress levels and means employees avoided burnouts. As well as this, employees feel more rejuvenated after a long weekend which means they take less sick leave. The extra day leads to workers feeling more rested and gives them more time to recover. Overworked employees are proved to be less productive. Japan is a country notorious for overworking and they rank 20th out of 35 for productivity. The world’s most productive countries like Norway, Germany and the Netherlands work an average of twenty-seven hours a week.
The four-day workweek would help to support an equal working environment. Employees would be able to spend more time with their families and be able to better juggle childcare and work commitments. In the UK, two million people are currently unemployed due to childcare responsibilities.
With workers only commuting four days a week, pollution levels could reduce. Employees carbon footprint will decrease not only because of the reduced travel but also because they have more time to make environmentally positive decisions like using fresh ingredients to cook.
63% of companies have reported that it is easier to attract staff with a four-day week which makes it easier to tackle unemployment problems. As well as this, 78% of staff who work four days a week have reported feeling happier and less stressed.
The drawbacks of the four-day working week
The four-day week may lead to an improvement in productivity and morale, but it is not a cost-effective way of running a business. The reduced week requires the correct support and workplace culture to run.
Customer satisfaction may take a hit because customers can’t always talk directly to an employee when a problem arises. If the weekend gains an extra day, there may be a bigger gap before responses are sent to customers which could cause agitation.
Some scientists have queried the studies done on the four-day week because they believe the study has fallen into the Hawthorne effect. The Hawthorne effect is a term alluding to the fact that when people are participating in an experiment, they work harder. This would mean that the four-day week doesn’t have as many benefits are the studies first thought.
The four-day week wouldn’t be possible for every industry. Sectors including teaching and retail would struggle to organise and fund reducing employees working time.
As this is a fairly new concept, more disadvantages and problems may come up as it’s adopted.
The benefits of having a reduced week do appear to outweigh the drawbacks. In a survey, 64% of 2000 people said that they would support a 4-day week with only 13% of people being opposed to the idea. In the UK, having a half-day on Friday is already becoming more common, so it might not be long before we get the whole of Friday off!
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