At their annual conference, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has this month called for a four-day working week to be implemented by the end of the century. The argument is that if the benefits of technology are shared with workers, productivity could be maintained but with less time in the office and either wages increased or remaining the same.
According to a report from the Centre for Cities, AI, robotics and automation could boost the UK economy by £200BN over the next decade but could come at the cost of 3.6m jobs.
Enthusiastic for the change
Enthusiasts of the four-day working week list a number of socio-economic benefits, including: increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, a better work-life balance, more time for child-care responsibilities and even reduced carbon emissions.
If you thought that the four day working week was simply a pipe-dream, read on to see the organisations putting the four day working week into reality.
Perpetual Guardian, a 16-office, 240-employee New Zealand firm implemented a two month trial in March 2018, on four days per week but employees retained their normal level of pay. According to the firm’s CEO, Andrew Barnes, the change has been a ‘resounding success’. It was reported that:
- There was no change in turnover or profit – workers were more productive within a shorter period of time
- 78% of staff felt they could effectively balance their work/home commitments during the trial, a surge upwards from from 54% when asked pre-trial
- Staff were also recorded to be less stressed and more engaged.
Other companies that have introduced the four day working week include:
- Advice Direct Scotland, a charity with 68 staff members based in Glasgow and Stornoway. Staff members have retained the same level of pay and holiday entitlements, but work an extra hour during the days they are in
- Gloucester Radioactive, a small PR agency with 10 employees, has also adopted a four-day working week following a successful trial. Interestingly, the company has conceded a small hit in profits – but has highlighted client and employee happiness as central to their business success
- The welsh firm, IndyCube have seen a greater output following 18 months of implementing the four day working week, with staff remaining on full salary. They admit that it has not always been as easy but they are now looking to expand out of Wales.
It is estimated by the TUC that there are some 1.4 million people in the UK that work a 7 day week and it is not difficult to understand why only a handful of organisations are testing the water of a four day working week. Many would regard the change with suspicion and consider it implements more challenges than benefits.
Questions do arise about the longevity of any advantages associated with the introduction of a four-day week – the majority of the above cases have only involved weeks of trial, rather than months and years. Are workers really more productive in the long term, or is the change-up of the work week simply refreshing which invigorates staff for short bursts?
A lot can be said for the benefits that are put forward by the pro-four day week camp, including the levels of stress and engagement felt by employees. However, would it have a marked impact on businesses by cutting down accessibility and flexibility from customers? Some might argue that, in light of ever evolving social circumstances, this could be overcome by offering employees a four day working week that overlaps, so with some employees working Monday to Thursday and others working Thursday to Sunday.
There is currently no legislative appetite for a statutory change and a five day week is currently embedded within European culture.
For furhter information please see: Unions call for four-day working week.