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Jul 20 2021

Is A 4 Day Work Week The Way Forward In A Post-COVID World?

Key insights

  • 98% of employees want the choice to work from home
  • 67% of younger employees say a 4-day week would be a factor in the career decisions
  • 63% of businesses say a reduced working week attracts more talent

Four-day work weeks have been a hot topic of conversation among businesses for many years. The idea behind reducing working hours is to improve work-life balance, eliminate burnout and increase productivity. By giving employees more time away from work, businesses can take away the pressure of trying to juggle friends, families, general life admin, exercise and caregiving all into a two-day weekend.

Many employers have been concerned over the idea of reducing working hours and giving their teams an extra day off. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has made some big waves for the cause.

How COVID-19 Has Changed The Way We Work

A few years ago, remote working was a perk that many employees weren’t able to take advantage of. Companies were keen to keep everyone in the office five days a week, for eight-hour days as standard practice.

When the Coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020, employers were left with no choice but to embrace remote working and support employees as they worked from home.

Coronavirus forced the hand of thousands of businesses that never would have considered remote working previously. To the surprise of many CEOs, having employees working from the comfort of their homes was a great success. A huge 85% of global businesses confirm that flexibility over location boosts productivity among staff, according to the IWG Global Workplace Survey.

It isn’t just the businesses that are seeing the benefits, but unsurprisingly, most employees prefer to wave goodbye to their commute and work in their own homes. 63% of the global workforce feel that they are more productive when working remotely than when they are in the office.

On top of this, 98% of employees want the choice to work from home for the rest of their career, making it very clear that there is no demand to get back to the office.

As we come out the other side of the pandemic, there are a lot of questions around how the way we work is going to be affected in the long term. There is an increasing feeling that the traditional working week is dated and ineffective, and that is where the four-day working week comes in. Some companies have already adopted this strategy and are seeing great results, while others still need some persuading.

Four Day Working Weeks Across The Globe

Britain is somewhat dragging behind in the trend of a four-day working week. However, many other countries have already trialled the idea with positive results.

Spain

Spain is one of the most recent countries to test out this new way of working, and the government have agreed to pilot a four-day working week over a three year period.

Workers will still receive their full pay, despite only working 32 hours, and the government is contributing towards the cost for businesses taking part. The plan has been organised by Inigo Errejon, who has said that the government backing of the four-day working week plan should “serve to reorient the economy towards improving health, caring for the environment and increasing productivity”.

Iceland

Leading the world in the four-day working week is Iceland, who have completed their trials of the setup and hailed them as an “overwhelming success”. The country trialled the shorter hours between 2015 and 2019 before COVID-19 shook the globe and many workers became more accustomed to remote working.

The trials were organised by Reykjavik City Council and included around 1% of the countries working population. During the trial, the majority of companies that took part reported that productivity either stayed the same or increased.

Director of research at Autonomy, Will Stronge, said “This study shows that the world’s largest-ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was by all measures an overwhelming success. It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer in shorter working weeks – and lessons can be learned for other governments”.

The Four Day Week Campaign

4 Day Week Global is a non-profit platform that is dedicated to campaigning the benefits of a four-day week. It was founded by Andrew Barnes, who first tested the four day week idea at Perpetual Guardian, his New Zealand based business.

After the trial, he quickly realised that productivity went up, as well as employee happiness. He recently told CNBC, “Our profitability has gone up. Our revenue has gone up. Our staff turnover has dropped”.

Barnes has been campaigning alongside Charlotte Lockhart since the pandemic hit. This campaign highlights the benefits of a four day week for both businesses and workers.

4 Day Week Global believe that a reduced working week will give companies an edge in terms of recruitment, as an increasing number of employees have changed their views on the way they want to work in future.

According to a study from Henley Business School, 63% of UK businesses claimed that attracting and retaining talent is much easier when using a four day week. With a new generation entering the workforce at this pivotal time, it is clear that a four day week and flexible options are important perks for younger people. 67% of Gen Z individuals said that a four-day working week would drive them to choose a business to work for.

Will Organisations Embrace The Four-Day Week?

It is clear to see that COVID-19 has changed the way we work and provided both companies and employees with a unique insight into the benefits of remote working and reduced hours. The four-day week campaign is gaining momentum all across the world, and more and more governments and organisations are getting on board.

Combining this with employees experiencing the perks that come with more freedom in their office hours, it’s expected that the four day week will remain a key discussion point. With trials revealing increased productivity, increased employee satisfaction and reduced staff turnover, it is hard to see why organisations wouldn’t embrace the idea of a four day week.

 

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