Pros and cons of a four-day working week (2024)

An increase in hybrid and remote working and a desire for a better work-life balance has left many businesses and employees questioning the typical working week.

The idea of a four-day working week is growing in popularity.

A survey of UK businesses in 2021 shows that 65% of companies offer all or some staff the option of working a four-day week, up from 50% in 2019.

Businesses in countries across the world have been joining four-day working week trials.

More than 3,300 workers at 70 UK companies are participating in a six-month pilot trial for a four-day working week with no loss of pay.

The trial is coordinated by 4 Day Week Global, which runs similar trials in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, and the United States.

But is the four-day working week a good idea and can it work for every business?

Businesses may need to consider productivity, costs, and employee well-being before adopting the new working model.

What is the four-day working week?

The concept is simple: employees work four days a week instead of the traditional five.

There are two ways the four-day working week can operate.

The first is when the hours worked in a five-day week are compressed into a four-day week, meaning longer working days.

The second approach involves working fewer hours than the traditional five-day week but with no reduction in employee pay.

Pros of the four-day working week

The four-day working week can have some advantages.

Boosts recruitment

Since the pandemic, 'quality of life' has become a significant factor for people seeking employment.

By offering a flexible work pattern, businesses are more likely to attract talent and retain employees.

One survey reported that 68% of companies offering a four-day week said flexible working helped them attract talent.

Increased productivity

Employees were happier and more focused at work, boosting productivity by spending less time working and more time with family.

A study in 2021 of a four-day working week in Iceland found that productivity levels had either increased or were maintained.

Reduced costs

With one day less in the workplace, your business could see a reduction in costs.

Less electricity usage could help reduce energy bills, and companies could also save money on water bills, food costs, and office maintenance.

A survey of UK businesses in 2021 revealed that 66% of businesses offering a four-day week were able to reduce costs.

Employee well-being

A four-day working week could increase your employees' health and well-being.

An extra day of rest could help reduce employee burnout and provide additional time for physical exercise.

Employees are less likely to take sick leave caused by stress and illness by having more time to rest.

Reduce environmental impact

By operating a four-day working week, your business could reduce its carbon footprint, helping to achieve sustainability goals.

Additionally, a four-day working week could mean fewer commuting employees, helping to reduce carbon emissions from cars and public transport.

Cons of the four-day working week

Despite the benefits, there could be some potential disadvantages to adopting a four-day working week.

May not suit all businesses

The four-day working week might not work across all industries.

For example, hospitality, nursing, and transport businesses requiring staff seven days a week or 24 hours a day could find a four-day week impractical, leading to staff shortages.

Customer satisfaction

Businesses operating a four-day working week could see an increase in unsatisfied customers.

While technology can support customer service requirements, customers may become frustrated with a lack of response and may not return to your business.

A study in the UK shows that 75% of companies not implementing a four-day week were concerned about customer availability.

Additional costs

You may incur additional costs if your business still has work to complete after a four-day week.

This may come from paying employees for overtime or hiring agency staff to cover busy periods.

Reduced productivity

Implementing a four-day week on the other hand, could have a negative impact on productivity, for example if you are trying to match the productivity of a five-day week in four days could increase pressure on employees, potential leading to a drop in quality and more workplace stress.

Longer hours

Opting to compress the hours of a five-day week into four can negatively impact employee well-being and productivity.

This could lead to reduced job satisfaction and a decrease in productivity.

Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsem*nt or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circ*mstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

Pros and cons of a four-day working week (2024)
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