The case for (and against) a 4-day work week (2024)

The landscape of workers’ rights – and workers’ expectations – is an ever-changing one.

One of the biggest workplace changes we’ve seen in modern times has been the widespread introduction of working from home, which has evolved into hybrid working models among employers both big and small. Suddenly, millions of people realised they did not need to be in the office from 9-5, five-days-a-week to get their job done.

The debates about productivity have raged ever since, but flexible working is here to stay. Indeed, earlier this year, workers’ rights around flexible working widened again. The right to request flexible working was first introduced in 2003. It was then extended to all employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service. But from 6 April this year, the right was extended again, applying from the first day of employment and covering every employee.

Some firms, however, have taken a different approach and experimented with the 4-day work week. In 2022, the world’s biggest 4-day work week trial took place, involving 61 organisations from the UK. After 12 months, 89% were still operating the policy with over half making the change permanent.

But, as with everything in life, there are pros and cons to the 4-day work week. And here, we break some of them down.

PROS

Increased productivity

In most cases, the 4-day work week means employees compressing their hours into 4 days. But even though this means longer working days, most employees report feeling happier and more focused at work. At the very least, reports suggest productivity is maintained, and in some cases, it increased.

Recruitment

Being able to offer potential new employees a 4 day week is a strong hook as a recruitment tool and can also help to retain the staff you already have.

Reduced costs

Often an overlooked benefit of fewer days in the office, but having an extra day when nobody’s in means reduced heating and lighting costs and even a reduction in your food bill if you have on-site catering facilities.

Well-being

Burn-out has become a big concern. Our latest research shows that almost half of the UK workforce is regularly stressed or anxious at work with around a third believing their employers do not do enough to support their mental health or wellbeing. Allowing staff more time to rest or spend time with family and friends via a 4-day work week can have quantitative benefits.

Environmentally friendly

The green agenda cannot be overlooked. And as well as saving money, having an extra day when the lights and heating are off has real environmental benefits. What’s more, if employees are in the office on fewer days, that takes cars off the roads.

CONS

Longer hours

The most typical way to operate a 4-day work week is to compress five days’ work into 4, and that means no more 9-5. For some employees, a longer working day is not what they want, so they may go somewhere that offers a more traditional take on the working week.

Customer expectation

You may be in 4 days a week, but the chances are your customers are not, and if they can’t reach you on a day when they need something fast, your reputation may suffer.

Not suitable for all businesses

For some organisations, implementing a 4-day work week is fairly straightforward, but for many the option simply isn’t there. And, even more problematic, for some businesses it may be suitable for one set of employees and not another. For example, a factory could allow its office staff to take Friday off, but the production line still needs to run, resulting in a ‘them and us’ situation which could breed resentment.

Short-term gain, long-term pain

The morale boost from a 4-day work week could be relatively short-lived. Once the novelty has worn off and 4-day work weeks becomes the norm in your organisation, the old moans and gripes may start to resurface.

Stress

Some organisations don’t compress hours, but simply work one day less. This means fitting 5 days’ work into 4 days, which could lead to increased stress among employees if deadlines start being missed.

The debate rages on…

According to a recent survey, 80% of people in the UK would prefer a four-day work week and the debate about the best way to implement flexible working will continue. Clearly, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.

Indeed, this is the position of the Confederation of British Industry, which said: “If businesses have the budget to add to their offer to employees, then they will be considering the relative merits of reducing working hours compared to increasing pay, pensions or paid parental leave, as well as better supporting health and wellbeing.”

The Government, for its part, has “no plans” to introduce a 4-day work week, stating it was a matter for employees.

The best starting point is to listen to your people and try to find a solution that works best for them – and for you. At People Insight, we can help through tools like our Future of Work Survey that will guide your organisation towards a future-proof working environment. Contact us today to get started!

The case for (and against) a 4-day work week (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Tyson Zemlak

Last Updated:

Views: 6475

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (63 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Tyson Zemlak

Birthday: 1992-03-17

Address: Apt. 662 96191 Quigley Dam, Kubview, MA 42013

Phone: +441678032891

Job: Community-Services Orchestrator

Hobby: Coffee roasting, Calligraphy, Metalworking, Fashion, Vehicle restoration, Shopping, Photography

Introduction: My name is Tyson Zemlak, I am a excited, light, sparkling, super, open, fair, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.