In recent years, many companies have begun exploring an innovative approach to working: the four-day working week. In the constantly changing landscape of work culture, the four-day working week has the potential to be the solution to increased productivity, employee satisfaction and a better work-life balance. But, it’s not without its challenges and the four-day working week is certainly not a one-size-fits-all solution. That being said, with proper evaluation, it has the power to be incredibly transformative. 

For some, implementing a four-day working week is a factor that could transform their business for the better in a myriad of ways. In 2022, 4 Day Week Global, a non-profit organisation that campaigns for a four-day week, helped to implement a four-day workweek trial in the United Kingdom and enlisted over 60 companies to reduce their workweek. The benefits were evident: they saw a 1.4% average increase in revenue as well as a 57% reduction in attrition. This is unsurprising when you consider that in a recent Gartner poll, more than 63% of candidates rated the four-day working week as the top innovative approach to work that would attract them to a job. If properly implemented, working four days a week could reduce burnout, offer more flexibility and improve the well-being of the workforce. The idea is that this goes hand in hand with increased productivity and revenue. 

The rising popularity and discourse that surrounds the conversation of the four-day working week drew the attention of the Senedd’s Petitions Committee earlier this year. In their report, all except one Member concluded that it is recommended the Welsh Government should support a targeted pilot of a four-day workweek. The report will be debated by the Senedd on the 10th of May 2024.

Joe O’Connor, the then-CEO of 4 Day Week Global, told the Petitions Committee that: “… reduced work time can lead to improved worker well-being, reduced burnout, reduced stress, and it’s something that can be really transformative in terms of work-life balance for employees when it comes to being able to spend more time with family, in the community, learning new hobbies, new skills and so on.”

The Petitions Committee did specify that the trial should not result in a loss of pay for the workers that participate and that the trial would be implemented most effectively in certain parts of the devolved public sector. The devolved public sector was a very deliberate recommendation, as the Committee heard a widespread agreement on the difficulties of implementing a four-day working week in sectors such as health, education, social care or hospitality. 

This illuminates some of the concerns that are brought along with implementing a four-day working week, as well as ways to overcome these hurdles. Scepticism about continuity and quality of work remaining the same, as well as the perceived risk of overwork. Some argue that by condensing the working week into just four days, companies risk piling five days’ worth of work onto employees who are only working for four. 

However, this does not invalidate those who argue for the four-day week and instead highlights the need to have a flexible and inclusive perspective. A slower and more gradual approach to the change could allow adaptation and experimentation, addressing issues and allowing organisations to implement the type of four-day week that best suits them. Differences in working hours and working days can affect the type of four-day week that is chosen, and different factors will be more beneficial for different businesses. 

Slunks, a hair salon in Cardiff, has implemented a four-day working week for the last three years that has been very successful. “We always wanted to do a four-day working week because the job can be very demanding and there is a lot of burnout from stylists.” Says Chelsea from Slunks. “Joel, who started Slunks, worked as a hairdresser for several years so understood there needed to be a change. After Covid, we could see that there was a possibility for this.”

“The way we adapted to the four-day working week was to run it as a shift rotation so we could alternate staff days. We also gave staff a weekend rotation so all staff could enjoy a long weekend. The feedback has been great from the staff – they have more time outside of work to enjoy their hobbies and to spend more time with their families, and we found that they’re less stressed at work and actually look forward to a working week.”

Conversely, they are aware that this is a change that could be very difficult for some businesses to make. Chelsea reported that “It’s a really hard time to be in business in Wales and the UK at the moment as there are so many high costs and so many staff shortages, so implementing a 4 day working week for small business at the moment could be really hard.”

That being said, for Slunks, adaption and an open mind have revolutionised their working week. 

“We have learned a lot in the last three years from implementing the four-day working week, mainly that you have to look at the individual needs of all staff and not just have a one-size-fits-all approach. Some of our team wanted to work five days a week and get a better commission rate and some wanted to work 4 days a week and get less holiday time. The bottom line is we have to make it work for everyone, ourselves included.”

Overwhelmingly, the four-day working week seems to be one trend in business that’s going to stick around. An open mind, willingness to adapt and a fresh approach to work could revolutionise the business landscape in the near future.

Author WCS

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