Why a Four-Day Working Week is the Way Forward Post-COVID
By George Griffiths, Managing Director of uCheck
The COVID-19 pandemic has completely turned our way of life - and working habits - upside down. It has shone a light on the way we work and has forced us to think about being more flexible.
So why have we been quite so wedded to a five-day working week? This model harks back to a time when factory work was the major source of jobs. Today, office work is far more prevalent, and unlike manual jobs, more time spent working rarely equates to greater productivity.
Although the prospect of a four-day working week might seem daunting, companies that have trialled it have found that productivity is significantly boosted.
In addition, businesses could find that they can reduce their office maintenance fees by up to 20% if they closed their doors for one extra day, not to mention the savings on fuel for employees.
A better work-life balance leads to a better sense of wellbeing amongst employees and this should not be underestimated. A four-day working week policy could work wonders for the happiness and health of the workforce which has a positive knock-on effect for the business.
A happy, healthy worker is a loyal worker. You would be more likely to retain more staff and a four-day week is an attractive benefit to entice new employees.
Of course, this might not work for all businesses and some might think that if they reduce the number of days, they need to increase the hours on the remaining days which is not great for employees trying to juggle family obligations with longer working days. It can also lead to burn-out, which can result in a higher staff turnover.
In effect, businesses adjusting in this way would lose all the benefits associated with a four-day week, putting more pressure on staff.
How do you know when it’s right for your business?
It’s no simple task to implement a four-day working week as it has to be done at an organisation level which can prove quite complicated, depending on the industry. In certain circumstances it could create scheduling problems and end up putting more pressure on employees.
However, when a four-day working week is introduced in conjunction with flexitime or job sharing, it could potentially work very well for a lot of businesses.
A trial period could be the best way of ascertaining whether or not it is a good fit for your company. In the planning stage, you might want to consider the following:
Select your day carefully - You should analyse where the peaks and troughs are in your business and when your employees are the most – and least – productive. You could do much worse than to earmark your least productive day as the one to think about losing.
If shutting down your entire operation for an extra day a week makes you nervous, you could instead consider a rota solution. Employees still benefit from a reduced week, but you don’t need to close down entirely.
Listen to your employees - There is evidence to suggest that most Britons would welcome a four-day week with a better work/life balance being up there on the list of priorities. You will, of course, need to move with the times if most other businesses start to go down this route.
Dragging your heels could mean that you lose your best employees to more forward-thinking competitors.
If your turnover of staff remains low, you will save money and time on recruitment, training, and other associated costs. Of course, you can outsource things like DBS checks, but you still want to hang onto current staff rather than having to continually advertise and recruit.
If, after a full analysis, a four-day working week is not going to be a viable option for your business, you might want to think of other ways to offer flexibility like flexitime or homeworking.
Embrace a change of culture - If you change the culture in your business to one where your employees are encouraged to focus on what is being achieved rather than the hours that are spent at their desk, then a four-day working week could be easy to achieve.
If employees know they only have four days to get their work done, they will be more efficient, and goal-oriented.
We might still be a way away from a four-day week being the norm across the UK, but it is becoming clear, especially as we settle into a new normal, that businesses will have to be a bit more open to change.
Photo courtesy of Canva.com