Can the 4-day week be successful?

Posted on 7 Sep 2022

Discourse around the four-day week has increased significantly in 2022, with a growing number of companies piloting workplace schemes aimed to identify if their employees would benefit from the change. But why has the four-day week suddenly become much more appealing to employer and can it be a success in the UK?

Why is the four-day week suddenly becoming more popular?

Up until now, the number of full-time four-day week jobs were limited. But, in figures reported by The Independent, the number of jobs advertising these shorter working patterns has dramatically increased by 90% in the past year.

But what could have triggered this? The rise in interest since 2021 has undoubtedly been spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic. Workers have had much more time away from the office achieving a healthy work-life balance and spending time with loved ones is now a priority for many people. Since 2020, high volumes of workers have also reported burnout and “zoom fatigue”, so working a more condensed week may be more appealing. Four-day weeks are also more suitable for those with caring responsibilities and/or disabilities, individuals whose concerns pre-pandemic may have been dismissed.

As a result, employers now have much more autonomy over their careers, including their working hours, place of work, and number of days worked, than ever before. Employees are deciding their working patterns, and employers need to accommodate their requests if they want to retain their staff.

And unlike part-time jobs, full-time four-day weeks offer employees currently working five days the opportunity to work one day fewer without a cut in pay, so long as they agree to maximise their productivity during their office hours, so it appeals despite the increasing cost of living. The idea has grown such traction in the UK that recently a four-day week trial was launched for 3,300 workers from over 70 companies. If successful, then we could see even more companies offering new or existing staff the opportunity to change the way they work. But can the scheme be successful, or will it leave companies out of pocket?

Can the four-day week be successful?

Although it’s too early to tell whether the trial will be a success, the four-day week is about much more than the amount of work completed. As Lee Biggins, Chief Executive of CV-Library says “employers are having to seek new ways of attracting new staff, over and above competitive pay and pension.” The UK jobs market has never been more competitive, with record numbers of vacancies, and less people applying, it’s essential that recruitment staff find new ways to attract staff if they are looking to fill a recruitment drive.

Therefore, although the trial may define the four-day week as successful if productivity levels remain high and the same volume of work is completed, there is arguably much more to be measured in terms of staff wellbeing, including if staff absences decrease, higher engagement is reported, and intention to stay increases. The Independent reports that social factors, such as the impact on the climate and gender equality will also be measured, as four-day weeks typically benefit working mums and cut down device use, a large contributor to global warming. But what impact could this have on IT and Recruitment staff?

The impact on IT and Recruitment

In several of our previous blogs we’ve discussed the changes that will need to be made to Recruitment practices in order to attract new staff and keep their current workers. If the four-day week trial is successful, it seems inevitable that more and more businesses will offer it as an incentive to potential employees, so recruiters will need to stay ahead of the game to identify how to keep their staff, and what else they can offer to convince new staff to join their organisation.

For IT staff, however, it could make life more difficult. Companies are currently most likely to be the target of cyber attacks when the perceived risk of intervention is low, such as on bank holidays and weekends. If businesses don’t invest in effective cyber security and staff are out of the office for three days per week, IT staff could find themselves dealing with an increasing number of data breaches and attempted hacks.

What are your thoughts on the four-day week? Are you part of the nationwide trial? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Get in touch to let us know your story.