Should We Have A Four Day Work Week?

Megan Brown

A recent wide-scale trial has been ongoing right under our noses in the UK, unbeknowst to most of us. 3300 employees across 73 companies have been trialling a four-day working week, where they received one paid day off a week. Companies taking part range from a car parts retailer to a game developer. A midway survey suggests that around 86% of the companies would keep the four-day policy, with the majority reporting similar or increased productivity. Megan Brown asks whether a four day week could be coming to workplace near you.

Ever since the recent pandemic, the workforce has had to evolve. For example, the introduction of hybrid and remote work was initiated to provide workers with flexibility during inflexible times, allowing for more effective ways of balancing work and well-being. These unconventional yet successful adaptations opened a gateway for greater changes, with parliament seeking out other ways of retaining this healthier work-life balance.

That’s where the idea of the introduction of a four-day week came into focus. However, the five-day week has been a key component of the UK’s workforce, therefore an alteration like this could be considered an extreme shift. This may explain why this system has not yet been implemented, despite the idea even circulating pre-pandemic.

A four-day working week could help to decrease this number of individuals not in employment

What are the pros of a four-day week?

Introducing a four-day week would mean greater flexibility for employees due to the fewer restricting hours placed upon them. So workers will have more time to relax and recharge for their next work-week. This flexibility not only improves the general well-being of workers due to the time made available for greater socialisation and/or participation in activities outside of the workforce. It also increases the worker’s productivity levels, since we all know that fatigue often leads to reduced efficiency and effectiveness.

63% of companies on a four-day week found it easier to retain their employees

Another benefit would be increased recruitment and retention. The number of individuals who are not employed is growing significantly, currently around one in five of the ‘working-age’ population, in other terms, one in five people aged of 16-64 are not working, nor are they looking for work. A four-day working week could help to decrease this number of people not in employment, for example it could be more appealing to those with childcare responsibilities.

Similarly, whilst employers would be attracting a larger workforce, they would also be maintaining it. Research shows 63% of companies on a four-day week found it easier to retain their employees for longer periods – due to the accommodating nature of the proposal. Therefore, as well as the improved work-life balance attracting new workers, it also keeps existing employees engaged.

Employees […] would spend less […] on things such as childcare during a day’s work

Moreover, according to the charity ‘Mind’ around 1 in 6 workers experience mental health problems, therefore this additional “day off” and its influence on the welfare of these workers could further help reduce the companies’ number of sickness absences. Research shows that around 62% of businesses that took part in one trial said their employees called in sick less often.

Another significant benefit would be reduced costs. Implementing a four-day working week should ultimately cut costs for everyone. For some employers, having their place of work closed for an extra day per week should lead to a significant drop in their overall running costs. Whilst for the employees, a financial benefit would be that they would spend less money to commute to their workplace; whether that’s on petrol or bus or train tickets, whilst further cuts would be made on things such as lunch and childcare during a day’s work. These reduced costs would be beneficial right now, with the UK currently experiencing the cost-of-living crisis.

They are made to compress a week’s worth of work into four longer days

Why aren’t some employers and employees on board?

Contrastingly, a key disadvantage of the four-day working week could be that it increases costs. Whilst it is suggested that running costs are reduced, operating costs are not. During the 2015 workweek trial in Sweden, they discovered that whilst employees were benefiting majorly, the city government was not, with costs rising by 22% due to the need for more nursing staff.

However, some argued that this rise was worth it for the qualitative returns, as they were able to reduce absenteeism, improve the nurses work-life balance and recruit new people to the profession.

Moreover, another possible disadvantage could be that the four-day working week is not always as relaxing as it sounds, for example workers in Belgium are allowed to request this four-day working week (without reducing their current pay), but it appears that they are not getting what they have asked for. Under their reform, employees are still made to work nine and a half hours a day, meaning they are made to compress a week’s worth of work into four longer days.

Unfortunately this type of plan, with no reduction in hours worked, seems most likely to be the one adopted by any U.K. government.

Megan Brown

Featured image courtesy of Avi Richards via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

For more content including uni news, reviews, entertainment lifestyle, features and so much more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like our Facebook page for more articles and information on how to get involved.

If you just can’t get enough of Features, like our Facebook as a reader or contributor and follow us on Instagram.


Leave a Reply