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Has the Covid-19 Pandemic Paved the way for a 4-day Working Week?

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On the 6th of June 2022, 70 UK companies and over 3300 workers started taking part in the biggest ever four-day week pilot to take place anywhere in the world to date. The employees taking part in the trial will be working a four-day week with no loss of pay based on the principle of the 100:80:100 model – 100% of the pay for 80% of the time, in exchange for a commitment to maintain at least 100% productivity.

As this new ground-breaking trial begins, Darwin Gray's Employment solicitor Rebecca Jenkins explore the main advantages and disadvantages of implementing a 4-day week.

Advantages

1. Increase in motivation and productivity

Although employees will be working fewer hours, it is suggested that allowing employees more time to rest, spend quality time with friends and family and participate in hobbies will mean that employees are more motivated at work. As such, companies may benefit from higher productivity and higher returns, which in turn, would also benefit customers.

2. Improve health

By providing employees more time to rest and take care of themselves, a 4-day week can result in improved health and a reduction in employees’ stress levels. It can also be a more effective way of decreasing the chances of long-term burnout or exhaustion than flexible working, as it seeks to reduce the overall number of hours worked, as opposed to merely rearranging them.

3. Attracting and retaining talent

Since the Great Resignation in 2021, whereby workers voluntarily quit their jobs at historic rates, companies in all industries have struggled to find ways to recruit and retain staff. As new research suggests that a massive 59% of businesses attribute employee dissatisfaction with the organisation’s flexible or hybrid working policy as one of the main reasons for resignations over the last year, progressive working practices such as a 4-day week may be an easy way to attract and retain talent.

Disadvantages

1. Inadequate coverage

There are concerns that 4-day weeks could result in insufficient coverage for customers. Although some organisations may try and overcome this by asking employees to take different days off, it is unclear how effective this in providing adequate service to customers. In addition to managing client needs, a 4-day week can also cause issues with internal scheduling, which can be particularly difficult for businesses in which collaboration and brainstorming are essential.

2. Additional stress

There is a risk that a 4-day week could actually cause employees more stress, particularly when they are transitioning from a 5-day week, as employees may find that they have to work longer hours on their working days in order to complete all their tasks.

3. Unsuitable for all employees / industries

There are many roles which aren’t suitable for a 4-day week e.g., some industries require a 24/7 presence for optimal flow, making a four-day work week hard to implement. Additionally, within a business there may only be some roles which are suitable for a 4-day week, such as office roles. However, it may breed resentment if only some employees in a company can take advantage of a 4-day week.

Is the 4-day week likely to gain popularity in the UK?

The Covid-19 pandemic is undoubtedly the reason behind the recent surge of support for a 4-day week. In addition to successfully challenging the status quo of traditional working practices, the pandemic also led employees to re-evaluate their priorities and search for a better work-life balance. However, whilst previous trials have indicated that a 4-day working week could significantly improve employees’ wellbeing, employers will be keenly awaiting the results of this trial to see whether a 4-day week could be the solution for significantly improving productivity, which is infamously lower in the UK in comparison to many European countries.

If you are an employer and need advice on implementing hybrid working, please get in touch with our Employment and HR team on 02920 829 100 for a free, no-obligation chat to see how they can help.