6th September 2018
According to the Office for National Statistics, 23,934 UK people were in full-time employment between July and September 2018. If, like the vast majority of the full-time employed, you work a Monday to Friday week, you likely spend Monday mornings reluctantly dragging yourself out of bed to face another five days at the grindstone.
So, let me pose you a question. How much of an appeal does the idea of working a four-day week have to you?
The Five-Day Week
Not taking into consideration your evenings, which are typically consumed by the daily ritual of dinner, TV, bath and bed before waking up to rinse and repeat, the average five-day working week only leaves us with two days of free time. However, with much of that being used up by household chores and family obligations, it can prove quite difficult to fit in the things you actually want to do to let your hair down. No wonder the weekends fly by.
Now, compare those two days to the thirty-seven plus hours that you spend at work. Your desk has become your second home. When you then factor in the amount of time spent commuting to and from work, your life suddenly becomes overwhelmed by the ever-growing presence of your job – especially when you consider that many of us work even longer hours than contracted for in order to avoid falling behind.
Many employers like to boast that their staff are offered a good work-life balance; but what actually constitutes for a good work-life balance?
By definition, having a work-life balance is the equilibrium between your working life and your personal life, meaning that, while you need to go to work to make a living, your professional responsibilities should never run and completely invade your life. Equally, your personal life should be left at home and not cross over or affect your work.
Having this balance is extremely important for the success of all areas of your life because everything has an effect on other areas. If work is getting too far on top of you, your home life will suffer as you will be less likely to relax and enjoy your time off. Likewise, if you are unable to make the most of your free time, the chances are that this will also impact on your work.
Could Implementing a Shorter Working Week Agree with both Employees and the Business?
With this being said, how can a good work-life balance really be achieved? After all, there are only so many hours in a week.
Cue the four-day working week. There is no argument that having an extra day away from work would allow staff to feel more relaxed and have more time to socialise or get chores done. Though, the question stands – how efficient would cutting the working week down be? Particularly from an employer’s viewpoint.
To explore the possible benefits of this concept, New Zealand firm, Perpetual Guardian, trailed a four-day working week with 240 of their employees in March and April 2018. The idea being that staff should not only be able to achieve a greater work-life balance but would also concentrate better while at work; and, from the perspective of the employees, the trial was a success, with 78% saying they experienced better work-life balance and reported lower levels of stress alongside higher levels of overall job satisfaction.
The benefits don’t just stop there. According to a study undertaken by Reed, nine out of ten employees were willing to work longer hours if they were rewarded with a longer weekend. From this, Reed concluded that their research showed implementing a more flexible working schedule may lead to staff being happier. It’s not rocket science that a happier and less stressed workforce is a more productive and creative one.
One more advantage of implementing a four-day working week is that the knowledge of having a shorter week in the office could increase employee focus on ‘getting the job done’ and not merely killing time and packing out the day with tasks that only exist to keep people busy.
Another study showed that many employees spend less than half their average working day being productive, with the average worker spending the majority of their day doing other things besides work, including eating, socialising or checking their personal emails.
If the results of this study are to be believed, it would stand to reason that not only would decreasing the time spent at work aid productivity but would also be cost-effective to business too. That’s less time paid for work not being done, utility bills crunched down by the office running for a day less and, potentially, more profit to be made as a result of the increased productivity. It’s a win-win!
Things to Consider
The pros for a four-day working week seem to only be piling up at this point, and you would not be alone in thinking that the application of a short working schedule is a no-brainer; but what about the flip side? Before making the decision to implement a shorter working week, it is important to fully consider what those changes could mean for your business and the external impact it might have, particularly on your clients.
Turn over in your mind whether you will still be available to them when they need you and if their demands will still be met. You will also need to think about whether fitting five days’ worth of work into four is an achievable feat. Contemplate whether trying to cram everything in might have the opposite effect and, instead, increase employee stress and if this would, in turn, let the quality of work and productivity suffer.
If a four-day working week is something that you are considering for your business, a carefully planned rota to ensure that deadlines and the needs of both customers and employees are met is crucial. You will also need to carefully consider the legal aspect to ensure you remain within the guidelines of the laws governing hours worked and breaks.
However you feel about the four-day week – it’s certainly food for thought.
Clarisse works on our Customer Care Team to provide all of our customers with the very best care and guidance when using their HR software.