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4 Day Work Week: Better for the Office?

June 14th 2022

The UK is undergoing the worlds biggest trial of working a 4 day week, with more than 3,300 workers at 70 companies taking part. The pandemic has had an impact on many aspects of our lives, however has seen a shift in focus to employees mental health and how that has an effect on the overall business. Studies have already concluded that a happy workforce has a positive impact on the bottom line, so this trial could give businesses looking to hire the best talent a competitive advantage.

The trial is set to run for 6 months and is based on the 100:80:100 model - 100% of the pay for 80% of the time, whilst still maintaining 100% productivity. 

The study is not just limited to office workers though, the study includes a fish and chip shop that is based in Norfolk as well as software and financial institutions.  

So what is this study looking at?

In terms of what the study is trying to achieve, Juliet Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College -

“We’ll be analysing how employees respond to having an extra day off, in terms of stress and burnout, job and life satisfaction, health, sleep, energy use, travel and many other aspects of life,” 

She added “The four-day week is generally considered to be a triple-dividend policy – helping employees, companies, and the climate. Our research efforts will be digging into all of this.”

This concept is not necessarily new with other countries such as Sweden testing the 4 day working week with mixed results in 2015.

Instead of 4 days the idea was to cut the length of the average work day from 8 hours to 6 hours, however a lot of businesses were not best pleased with spending money on the trial.

There was a positive response within an orthopaedics unit of a hospital which hired new staff to cover the lost time. The reduced hours was of overall benefit to the workforce, but due to the criticism the trial faced, was not renewed. 

Large car firm such as Toyota, which had decided to do this for their mechanics 10 years before the study, were happy with the results and stuck with the reduced hours.

The Swedish trial took place before the pandemic and wasn’t carried out long enough to provide enough data to give any conclusive results. With the whole world beginning to come out of the pandemic and with the focus on staff health and well being becoming a bit more of a priority among a lot of businesses, we can only speculate on whether the decision to carry that on would be different if it had taken place now.

It’s not clear from the articles posted about the trial just how many of the companies that take part are office based vs other industries such as the medical, agricultural or hospitality sectors, to name a few. 

The trial is due to be conducted for 6 months which is enough time to give short and medium term results. With a one size fits all trial, we can expect mixed results and we will be sure to update you on this!

How long are we currently working?

A look at the office of national statistics Average actual weekly hours of work for full-time workers (seasonally adjusted), shows that there was an understandable dip in the average hours worked during the pandemic due to furlough, however as it is fair to say we are at the end of it, the average amount of hours appear to have dropped from 37.2 to 36.6.

ONS weekly work hours data

Whilst this might not appear to be that significant, however, in the context of the entirety of the UK work force, it is. Whether this is an after effect of the pandemic on the well being of the nation isn’t clear.

Could this be the reason for the timing of this trial?

We have written about the pros and cons of remote working and this will undoubtedly be a factor in this trial. Whether sitting at an office desk or home office desk, does play a role in the employees mental state. 

In conclusion the trial will undoubtedly have a positive effect, giving more time to the employees to pursue something more fulfilling in there lives. How this translates to the productivity and profit margin of a private company is something that is yet to be seen.

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