Can we go back to 5-day working weeks?
There’s no doubt that the past two years have been one of the strangest in modern history; and it has affected the way we live, communicate, how we work and where we work.
The ‘work from home’ culture has been widely embraced, and although the presence of colleagues physically has been missed; can we really see ourselves going back to working five-days-a-week in the office?
The introduction of hybrid working has allowed employees to be flexible with the way they work, whether that’s in the office or from the comfort of their own home. The most common option has been allowing workers to operate from home a few days a week, whilst spending the rest of the week in the office. The government has also encouraged workers to go back to the office as long as it is safe to do so, in a bid to help boost the economy and get things back on track.
As we see more hybrid model opportunities arise, the UK is now questioning whether we should have 4-day weeks rather than 5. As a result, the UK has now trailed the 4-day working week for 6 months – with up to 30 UK companies taking part in this trial. One of the perks employees will find is that they will be paid the same amount working 4 days a week, as if they were working for 5 days.
Iceland conducted a 4-day working week in the summer of 2021; hailing it an “overwhelming success”.
What are the potential benefits and risks of a 4-day working week?
The possibility of working one less day a week sounds very appealing to many, and one of the reasons for that is: it keeps employees feeling refreshed and productive. In addition to seeing an increase in productivity, it also adds into work-life balance which is what employees strive for. Additional benefits include:
Equal opportunities for all – Whether it’s childcare duties or other outside commitments, a 4-day work week enables equal opportunities for everyone who may not be able to be in the office five days a week. This way employees can spend more time with their families.
Effective employee engagement – Going back to our main point, four working days a week can lead to happier and more productive employees. As a result of this, communication between colleagues is much more effective. Employees who are fatigued are not likely to be highly engaged.
Environmental benefits – Reducing the work week from 5 to 4 days could have an environmental benefit too. As a result of less commutes to work, this means large office buildings are not in use as much.
Although there are benefits to a shorter work week, there are also some potential disadvantages.
Unsatisfied satisfaction – Although working less days a week could have a positive effect on employees, customers may be the ones who don’t benefit from a reduction in working days. Less days will mean customers may not receive the support they need on a regular basis if offices are closed.
Could it be approached in the wrong way? – Though workers will work less days, they are still expected to cover 35 hours across four days. This leads to increased hours over a shorter time – could that cause fatigue and lower levels of productivity?