4 day working week: the pros and cons

4 day working week: the pros and cons

8 November 2023

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With employees increasingly seeking flexible working arrangements and an enhanced work-life balance, the subject of the standard 5 day working day has been brought into focus as businesses assess their options. A recent pilot programme saw 61 UK companies and their nearly 3,000 employees trial a 4 day working week for 6 months, and employees found that they didn’t suffer a loss of pay during the trial. Of the companies who participated in the trial, 56 (92%) are continuing to trial the change, with 18 moving to a 4 day working week permanently.

Before a business considers moving to a 4 day working week, they must assess the pros and cons so that an informed decision that fully assesses the needs of the business its employees and its customers/clients. Keep reading for our 4 day working week pros and cons.

Pros of a 4 day working week

Recruitment & Retention

Employees want to work for businesses that they feel understand their needs and are flexible and forward-thinking, and with that in mind, a 4 day working week can be a great way for companies to attract new talent. A report from the University of Reading found that 68% of companies who offered a 4 day working week said that it helped them to attract new staff. Staff who have a desire for flexibility in their working options are also far more likely to stay with their employer if a 4 day working week is offered and thus retention is increased and turnover is reduced.

Costs

Employers who operate a 4 day working week will generally lower their business costs. If they reduce their staff turnover rates as mentioned above, that will lower recruitment costs for a start! Assuming that your business has a physical workplace, then costs to run and maintain that working environment will also reduce with a 4 day working week. Even if the working week is staggered where some staff are in each working day with less staff in less often, costs for utilities will also drop.

Work-Life Balance & Wellbeing

One of the primary drivers of moving to a 4 day working week is that employers can help their employees to achieve a better work-life balance and enhanced well-being. An additional non-working day can help to lower stress, and give employees more opportunities to exercise, indulge in hobbies, and spend time connecting with family and friends. When this all comes together, employee wellbeing is greatly improved and this can lead to lower levels of sickness absence.

Productivity

If staff are happy, engaged, have a positive work-life balance, and feel that they are well looked after, they will be much more motivated to give their very best when at work and this can lead to improved productivity, which ultimately drives business growth and profits.

Cons of a 4 day working week

Suitability/Practicalities

It’s a reality that a 4 day working week will not be suitable for all businesses. Some companies need to operate 24/7, or at least 7 days a week. Some example sectors would be retail, care and hospitality. Leading supermarket Morrisons trialled a 4 day working week for head office staff, but this included the requirement to work 13 Saturdays per year due to the nature of the business and stores requiring support at weekends. Based on feedback from staff about the practicalities of the arrangement the trial was scrapped.

Working Hours

The premise of a 4 day working week is that staff compress their normal 5 day week into 4 days. This means that on the 4 working days, employees will start earlier and finish later which can impact on wellbeing. Working this way can also create issues for staff around commitments outside of work and be problematic for things like childcare arrangements for example.

Customer Service

Unless employers get their staffing model and rotas correct, customer service can suffer due to a lack of staff availability because of a 4 day working week. If fewer staff are available to support customers, this can lead to dissatisfaction due to waiting times. If a business closes completely for 1 day as a result of a 4 day week, it can lead to missing out on customers completely or investing in automating some aspects of customer service.

Speak to our experts today

We’ve highlighted some 4 day working week pros and cons and we hope it’s given you more insight into your options. Implementing a 4 day working week may seem like a good idea, and ultimately it could prove to be beneficial for a business, but it’s important to assess all options, talk to staff, gather feedback and at least operate the new working model on a trial basis to see if it works before fully adopting it.

If you’d like any more advice on implementing a 4 day working week in your business, get in touch with us today. Our friendly team of HR experts are on hand to answer any questions you may have. Be sure to take a look at our HR software too and sign up for our FREE 30-day trial to give it a test run.


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