“It’s official, the four-day week trial in the UK has been hailed a success, both for businesses and employees and it’s now on track to be continued by the majority of organisations and trialled even further”, said Lord Mark Price, Founder of WorkL, former Trade Minister and former Managing Director of Waitrose.
“Sainsbury’s even announced last week that it would begin its own trial. The benefits are not just reduced burnout, employees listed an improvement in their close relationships, their finances and their health, claiming that it ‘simply made them happy.’
“One must remember that not so long ago the six-day week was the norm and it was only Henry Ford who reduced the working week to five. John Lewis has long been a pioneer of flexible working, we had a four-day week in John Lewis more than 20 years ago when I ran its shop in Cheadle - the shop traded from 10am-8pm. In Waitrose, trading over seven days, flexible working was commonplace even in office retail support roles and the organisation continues to support those with young families or caring responsibilities by enabling employees to share roles with flexible hours.
“So, the notion that the four-day week is brand new is incorrect- businesses have been enabling the four-day, three-day or two-day working week for years and the focus should be on flexible hours over days. Fitting a five-day week into four days is commonplace for many, where it gets interesting is when employees are paid the same for a 28 hour working week rather than working 35 hours. More of this later.
“At WorkL, my employee experience platform where we measure, track and improve employee engagement, we are seeing more and more employees list a four-day week as one way that their employer can improve their working life. Now that the trial has been declared a winner, I expect to see more comments like this from our data. But how can employers navigate such a significant shift in a business, ensuring profits stay consistent, clients continue to be serviced at the current level and productivity doesn’t reduce?
“Firstly, I’d encourage all employers to download the CIPD’s report on this topic which was released late last year. The report details the employers’ perspective on shortening the working week, highlighting the benefits and challenges. In short, the report details exactly what a four-day working week is- reducing a 35-hour week to 28 hours split over four days with no reduction in pay. The report also highlights that a quarter of the workforce already work a four-day week.
“Managers are set to benefit most from the four-day week since the report highlights how they work more hours during their working week than non-managers. The CIPD highlights that it is about hours over days and depends on when employees log into work. Seven hours of work is deemed what is contracted, but workers usually log in pre-9am, work through lunch and stay late. Employers need to be thinking about hours over the number of days that employees are working.
“At WorkL we’ve just launched self-serve surveys to measure employee experience, Wellbeing and Diversity & Inclusivity. Asking employees if they are in favour of a flexible hours would be a good start too. Some employees might be happy with the current status quo, but giving employees a voice on this subject should be a priority. This is the biggest recognised proposed change to how we work since the pandemic and has no doubt come about because of the autonomy that was given to employees during this time.
“Reports such as the CIPD’s and the trial show that employers should be evaluating the days and hours employees are working and if it is possible to reduce hours. It won’t be possible for every organisation, but I predict that this will be the norm within five years, even though it’s been an unrecognised norm for many businesses for years. Employers must listen to their teams to understand what is wanted and what is needed to make this happen.”