Is the four-day week really on its way?

Get ready for the four-day working week–that’s what headlines are telling us. But is this realistic, or just a reaction to the extra flexibility which is now part of many people’s working lives?

Several big-name companies have already shifted their staff to long weekends on the same pay, with many others consulting on similar contract changes.

For shift workers, the idea is that instead of five eight-hour shifts spaced out from Monday to Friday, they would work 10-hour shifts spanning four days instead.

Supporters claim it can actually make the nation more productive while improving work-life balance and mental health.

Opponents, on the other hand, dismiss it as simply irresponsible, and a knee-jerk reaction to appease those who received financial support packages equating to 80%of their full salaries during furlough while remaining at home and not working–and now don’t want to go back to the old ways.

Among the leading campaigners for change is 4 Day Week Global, which has support from researchers at Cambridge and Oxford universities.

Pilot programme manager Joe O’Connor, says: “More and more businesses are moving to productivity focused strategies to enable them to reduce worker hours without reducing pay.

“The four-day week challenges the current model of work and helps companies move away from simply measuring how long people are ‘at work’, to a sharper focus on the output being produced. 2022 will be the year that heralds in this bold new future of work.

”Despite its growing club of supporters, it is a concept which remains largely unproven across the world’s leading economies.But for how much longer?

The website is also campaigning for change. It says:“The standard 9-5, five-day working week is outdated and no longer fit for purpose.

“We invented the weekend a century ago and are long overdue a four-day working week which would benefit workers, employers, the economy, our society and our environment.

“The UK works longer hours than most of Europe. It is not making us more productive. It is making us stressed, over-worked and burnt out.

“Trials show a reduced work week increases an organisation’s productivity. A Henley Business School study in 2019 found that 250firms participating in a four-day week saved an estimated £92 billion a year because their employees were happier, less stressed, and took fewer sick days. Put simply, a rested worker is a better worker.

“Together we can build a society where we work to live, rather than live to work.

”Peter Jones, managing director of recruitment agency Foyne Jones which specialises in the home interiors and builders’ merchant sectors, says: “I am a fan of anything in business which is creative, different and in a position to let people develop anew perspective on life in the workplace, so the four-day week is something employers should be considering.

“The latest surveys indicate that an employer’s ability to provide a family-friendly workplace and next-generation company culture like flexible working and access to childcare services, is critical to optimising employee wellbeing and greater business success.

“The recent lockdown measures have emphasised the number of people working flexible hours, which has increased five-fold in the last two decades and according to a recent report by Forbes, 70% of UK employees feel that flexible working makes a job more attractive to them compared to 30% who would prefer flexible working to a pay rise.

“As a specialist in industries typically regarded as ‘male-dominated’, I have witnessed a sea change in recruitment, as employee engagement is now regarded as a fundamental concept in business, combined with unbiased equal opportunities.

“Added to that, by 2030 nearly half of UK workers will be over 50 and so this sandwich generation are likely to welcome flexible working arrangements.”

Peter believes Shropshire companies should not shy away from new opportunities to support and work with their staff.

“It is fair to say that employees are now of the mindset that if the same results can be achieved in fewer days, why keep a five-day workweek?

“This radical departure from the typical 48 hours per week is under greater consideration since Covid-19, however there needs to be employer benefits too.

“Reports are showing that implementing more flexible working hours can encourage lower sickness rates and a more equitable, transparent relationship between employee and employer.”

What’s your view? We’d love to hear from you.