RESEARCH
  • Managing people

Pros & Cons of a Four-Day Week

Henley Business School study of the QuadGen workforce shows the benefits of flexible and four-day working

 

By downloading this resource your information will be shared with its authors. Full privacy statement.

Flexible working practices that allow employees a better work/life balance are increasingly being implemented successfully in companies of all types and sizes. The latest buzz is around a call for a four-day week – but would this be a step too far?

When Labour, the UK’s opposition party, recently declared it would introduce a mandatory four-day working week within a decade, there was considerable criticism – not only would it wreck the economy but the poorest in society would suffer most; trades unions might love the idea but employers, particularly in small businesses, would have a unsustainable cost to pay.

In fact, several high-profile companies have already begun to trial four-day working and others are exploring the idea. In this context, new research from Henley Business School usefully informs the debate. The study, led by Henley academics, points to clear benefits, finding that those organizations already offering four-day working are seeing improvements in employee satisfaction, increased staff productivity and a reduction in sickness absence.

The nine-to-five, five-day, week became the norm at a time when most people lived in single income families with male breadwinners and women largely unrepresented in the workforce. Although we have not lived like that for many decades, it is only now with younger generations joining the workforce that pressure is growing to decisively break the mould and move to more flexible ways of working.

In today’s ‘QuadGen’ workforce (Gen Z; Millennials/Gen Y; Gen X; Baby Boomers), the two younger generations in particular are determined to work in collaborative environments where employers demonstrate they care about the health and happiness of their employees. To meet this challenge and to attract and retain talented people, employers need to embrace the work/life balance concept. This research emphasises that in doing so, by adopting flexible working practices, they can boost performance and even benefit the bottom line.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Join Henley Business School's 1-day ‘Strategic Workforce Planning Masterclass’

Designed for HR and L&D professionals and other leaders charged with setting up and delivering an engaged and talented workforce

Dates: 5 Nov; 4 June 2020; 12 Nov 2020│ Format: In-class study

Location: Henley-on-Thames

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The researchers surveyed the attitudes and practices of 500 business leaders and 2,000 employees, including businesses that have already implemented a four-day working week and those considering it. The key benefits reported by employers offering a four-day working week as part of their employee package were:

Improving their ability to attract and retain talent – 63% of businesses say that flexible working options help them attract the right talent

Increasing overall employee satisfaction – 84% agree company values are important in choosing an employer

Reporting lower employee sickness levels – 62% say staff take fewer days off ill, and 70% say staff are less stressed.

Increasing productivity – 64% of employers already offering a four-day week say there has been an improvement in productivity

The combined savings to UK business is already as high as £92 billion a year

In all, these benefits have a significant effect on corporate performance and cost-effectiveness. According to the researchers, it is calculated that as a result of these benefits the combined savings to UK business is already as high as £92 billion a year, 2% of total annual turnover.

The benefits reported by to employees are around feeling less stressed and happier, with positive impacts on family life, mental health, and physical fitness. Lastly, the research also points to the environmental benefits of a shorter working week: fewer journeys to and from work with less fuel consumption and a reduction in pollution.

75% of businesses surveyed say that offering staff flexible working is important; but not everyone is on board for the four-day week. 44% of businesses believe that the four-day working week is the right option, but 73% thought it would be too complicated to manage. Besides, there are clearly real concerns for organizations offering all week even 24/7 customer service, and for globally focused businesses that communicate with different time zone, not to mention the all-hands-to-the-pump culture of many start-ups.

It is also the case that most examples of successful four-day working weeks are found in larger companies. 91% of small business employers say it would find the four-day working week too difficult because it directly affects availability for customers. Furthermore, when it comes to rolling out four-day working more widely, it is worth remembering that most of the examples of successful flexible working of all sorts are are found amongst managerial staff, people granted a fair degree of autonomy in their work.

As for introducing a mandatory four-day week across the economy, this is clearly unrealistic. However, with the coming of AI and machine learning there is likely to be less work to go around the human workforce at all levels.

A four-day week, defined as a working pattern where businesses offer some or all of their staff the ability to work for four days while still being paid a full-time salary, is destined to increase. Though employers need to think more broadly about meeting the work/life the needs of their employees of all generations. The four-day working week should be included in a wider mix of flexible working arrangements and other initiatives such as designing workplaces for greater inter-connectedness to foster collaboration.

Providing employees with greater autonomy over their work/leisure time and their working methods makes them feel trusted and empowered, and fits well with that other important factor often reported as being key to worker happiness and engagement – providing purpose.

...........................................................................................................................

Read Henley Business School’s research white paper here: ‘Four Better or Four Worse?’


Set in the heart of the Thames Valley and conveniently located for London, Henley is one of the oldest and most respected business schools in Europe. Number 20 in the world for the combined ranking of open and custom programmes (FT 2019), it is part of an elite group of business schools to be triple-accredited for the quality and capability of faculty and output.





 
Close
Google Analytics Alternative