The four-day week, why implement it and how does it work?

May 23, 2022
The four-day week, why implement it and how does it work?

There has been a lot of publicity recently about moving to a four-day week, with a national trial, and many high-profile employers making the switch and talking about it. But how does it work, and why should a small business implement it?

Full time in four days?

Moving to a four-day week means changing your organisation’s normal ‘full time’ hours to four days rather than the usual five. The idea is that salaries stay the same, and roles stay the same, but working fewer days makes everyone more productive, meaning quality is not negatively impacted, and both employers and employees alike see the benefits. It’s not like working compressed hours, where an employee literally works the same number of hours they were working in five days, in four, which means working very long days. The idea is the working day stays the same length.

Recruitment and retention

Employers who are flexible and encourage a good work/life balance are sought out by job hunters and are more successful at attracting talent to their business. Implementing a four-day week can make you very attractive as an employer in a challenging recruitment market. You are widening the field and ensuring that talented, committed individuals who are looking for a good work life balance are not ruled out. Similarly, a four-day week can also help you retain good staff who might want an improved work-life balance and may look elsewhere if they can’t achieve it in their current role.

Productivity, efficiency and engagement

There are numerous trials and real-world examples showing a shorter working week increases an organisation’s productivity. Staff working in an environment where work-life balance is promoted via a four-day week feel more empowered and valued, and are accordingly more motivated, committed and loyal. This means they are more engaged in their work, and more productive as a result. They are also getting enough rest, which makes everyone work more efficiently, and enough time to engage in family life or leisure activities, making them happier generally.

Staff who are keen to implement a four-day week are likely to be motivated to find ways of achieving this, frequently become much more efficient in order to make it work, and sometimes come up with other time-saving or efficiency measures to facilitate it. a rested worker is a

Reducing absenteeism

Implementing a four-day week can reduce absenteeism in your business. It enables staff to cope better with the demands of family life that can impact on attendance at work. This is particularly true if you can allow staff to vary their day off at short notice if they need to. But as well as convenience, a four-day week can also reduce sickness- a Henley Business School study in 2019 found that 250 firms participating in a four-day week saved an estimated £92 billion a year because their employees were happier, less stressed, and took fewer sick days.

Practical considerations

With the four-day week, salaries would stay the same, although holiday would reduce. Employees would still get the same number of weeks off each year, but would need fewer annual leave days to achieve that. Those who already work part time would need to be considered, and either have a similar reduction in hours without a reduction in pay, or a raise in pay so that there is parity with full timers on a pro rata basis. If your business needs to be open more than four days a week, you’ll need to consider ‘cover’, and whether you allow flexibility with which day off people have, or need a rota or similar.

In terms of implementation, it would be a change to terms and conditions and would require consultation and agreement, although this is not likely to be challenging as employees should benefit. Consultation is more likely to be a process of addressing queries and outlining the logistics. You could do as many bigger employers have done, and trial it for a period first. As long as this is made clear in correspondence, with clarity about what happens at the end of the trial, that would be fine. Bear in mind employees who use childcare may need notice if the trial is unsuccessful and they then have to make arrangements for a fifth day each week once again.

 

Ultimately, a four-day week can have huge benefits, and some investment in time and effort considering how it could work for your small business could really pay dividends in productivity and money saved through absence reduction and recruitment costs. If you’d like some advice on implementing a four-day week, do get in touch.