Can a Four-Day Week Work in Practice?

March 11th 2022 | Posted by Phil Scott

Many HR experts believe that productivity is improved by adopting a four-day week.

However, there are also concerns that issues such as workplace stress could increase as a result of the practice.

Currently, 30 companies in the UK are participating in trials of the four-day week as part of research into establishing the effects of the practice. Over the next six months, employees at these companies will work 80% of their normal hours but they will be expected to maintain the same level of productivity. Their wages will remain the same.

The results of this research will not be known for several months. In the meantime, it’s interesting to take a look at the positives and negatives of a four-day week that will help to determine whether the system works in practice.

The theory behind moving to a four-day week

There is a lot of positivity about the four-day week in many quarters. Several experts extol of the virtues of changing the focus from how long people work to their productivity levels while they are working.

Research has shown that short-term trials of this way of working have increased productivity and improved employee satisfaction. But, in the longer term, there are some challenges that cannot be ignored.

The potential challenges of a four-day week

One issue that could have a negative impact on the success of four-day working initiatives is that they do not work as well in different situations. For example, employees who do not have as much flexibility in the way they work, such as IT professionals and admin teams, often find it difficult to adapt to a four-day week.

Another possible issue of working a four-day week is the potential for an increase in workplace stress. There is concern that some individuals may find it difficult to adapt to the new way of working. This concern makes it essential for companies taking part in the current trial to ensure they have an effective well-being structure in place for employees.

This includes ensuring that people working within the new structure have their connections with other members of their team maintained. Ensuring this happens helps to alleviate the potential problem of workplace loneliness.

In addition to these challenges, companies that aim to implement a four-day week must pay close attention to contractual matters. Changes have to be consulted upon and agreed before implementation takes place.

Once a four-day week has been implemented, the effects have to be measured and employee welfare has to be monitored.

It will be some time before the results of the current four-day week trial are known. Only then can the answer to the question as to whether the system will work be answered. There will certainly be challenges for any companies that look to embrace the system. They will need to agree on the implementation through consultation with employees, seek and act on feedback, and monitor progress in terms of factors such as productivity and employee welfare in order to determine if the changes are working effectively.

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