Recent political controversy surrounding town hall working practices has resulted in formal warnings by the government against adopting a four-day workweek by the council’s staff.
Despite the government’s reluctance to see the value in such practices, the council has reported improved recruitment and subsequent savings, and other advocates are seeing the benefits too.
From better job satisfaction and reduction in absenteeism to increased productivity and the opportunity to attract top talent, the four-day workweek is promising. But is it a viable solution for everyone?
Recruitment system experts, Occupop, share insights on the success of such working practices and explore the benefits to both employees and employers.
Why should we consider a four-day working week?
A recent collaborative survey between YouGov and Startups found that 78% of employees want a four-day working week. Their key driving factors are better work-life balance (61%), more time for personal interests and hobbies (40%), and reduced commute time (38%).
Employees’ physical health and well-being have also seen immense improvements. The results from the four-day workweek pilot organised by the non-profit 4 Day Week Global showed that 71% of the 3,000 respondents have reported feeling reduced levels of burnout, which is a major concern in 2023. Moreover, there has been a 65% decline in absenteeism.
“According to a recent study by Deloitte, 77% of respondents say they have experienced burnout at the workplace, yet the majority feel that their employers aren’t addressing the issue adequately. This, in return, affects employees’ productivity and quality of work. A tool such as the four-day working week can help boost morale and result in improved focus and performance, as well as less absenteeism.” commented Caroline Gleeson, CEO at Occupop.
Tyler Grange, an environmental consultancy firm based in London, trialled the four-day working week in 2022, and officially implemented it in June 2023. In the company blog, co-founder Simon Usell said: “We found a four-day week is more productive, we do about 106% of the work in four days that we used to do in five. And that’s because we are better at it, not because we are compressing hours.”
A key to attracting top talent and retaining employees
In 2023, the talent shortage is at its all-time high since 2006, with 77% of employers struggling with filling roles, especially when it comes to highly skilled positions. The dynamics have shifted from employees contending for specific roles to companies actively competing against each other to secure top talent.
Offering a four-day working week can seem lucrative to both future employees and existing ones. According to YouGov and Startups’ survey, 52% of employees would actively seek employment from a company with a four-day working week. The perk attracts 58% of Gen Z employees, the highest of all generations.
Not only that but the major trial of the four-day working week took place during a period popularly known as the ‘Great Resignation’, which was marked by a surge in workers resigning from their jobs at unprecedented rates. Intriguingly, there was a notable 57% decrease in the probability of an employee quitting between the comparison period and the trial. This indicates that the four-day workweek can contribute to a reduction in resignations.
“In today’s competitive market, having a name simply isn’t enough for companies to take them far along the stretch of success. They need to make serious investments in outstanding marketing and PR campaigns to ensure that they both withstand severe criticism and have a compelling brand image to stand for.
“One secure way to meet the market’s increasing demands that prioritise great company culture is to invest in work-life balance and offer innovative work structures, such as the four-day working week. This will position them as progressive and forward-thinking, hence reinforcing a positive brand image. Job seekers/prospective employees will inevitably feel more drawn towards companies that are seen as cutting-edge,” commented Caroline Gleeson, CEO at Occupop.
What is the current success rate?
Despite the fact that 78% of employees who took part in the above-mentioned survey are in favour of a four-day working week, only 30% of them have faith in their company to implement it successfully.
Nevertheless, during the trial last year, 61 companies reduced the working hours without compromising their employees’ wages. Of those, 92% continued with the four-day working week, and 18 companies confirmed it as a permanent change.
There were financial benefits for the majority of companies too. On average, the revenue went up by 1.4%, factoring in the weight of the company size. When comparing the change in revenue from a comparable prior six-month period to the trial period, there is a much more significant increase of 35% on average.
Awin, a global affiliate platform employing over 1,300 people, was among the major employers testing a four-day workweek last year. Post-trial, 94% of employees reported an enhanced work-life balance, and notably, business profits increased by 13%. In February 2023, Awin permanently implemented the flexi-week working structure.
If we take a look at the sectors in which the participating companies with high success rates are operating, however, we will notice that they are from the marketing, advertising and professional services industries. These allow for more flexible working structures, where working hours can easily be adjusted.
This is not necessarily the case with manufacturing and customer-facing businesses. Krystal Hosting, a London-based web hosting company, trialled the four-day workweek with their workday support team. Unfortunately, they had to end the trial prematurely because their response times suffered. On Monday, their busiest day, there were only 50% of staff to respond to queries. This meant that the staff stayed later on other days to finish the backlog or felt guilty leaving the helpdesk busy.
Simon B., CEO of Krystal Hosting, wrote in the company blog: “While the team fought admirably to keep on top of work and turned around responses as quickly as possible it came at a cost - work time was now much more stressful than before. The opposite of what we were trying to accomplish.”
While the four-day working week provides immense benefits for both employees and employers, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
“Companies need to consider the sector they’re operating in and how the four-day workweek will impact the workload to ensure that employees’ well-being and productivity needs are actually met, instead of being jeopardised,” commented Caroline Gleeson, CEO at Occupop.