Written by KATE SCOTT
Is it possible to be more productive, healthier and happier by working four days a week instead of five?
Since the last recession, average working hours in the UK have increased, and it is well documented that as a nation we are overworked and stressed.
Against that background it’s perhaps no surprise that many employees would jump at the chance of an extra day off – a recent survey by YouGov found 71% of Britons believed it would make them happier. The idea is increasingly being taken seriously by experts and employers alike.
In a ground-breaking study in New Zealand, financial services company Perpetual Guardian trialled a four-day week with its 240 strong workforce with impressive results. The company reported productivity increase by 20%, profits increased, and staff wellbeing was improved significantly. The study revealed no fall in output, along with reduced stress and increased staff engagement.
International recruitment consultancy MRL Consulting Group recently announced it was trialling the four-day week for 56 members of staff in the UK, France and Germany, and a search of news sites reveals trials among PR consultants, chefs and the creative industries have so far been successful.
What might the downsides be?
A four-day working pattern doesn’t suit every employee and it won’t work for every employer. The reality is that many companies would still want employees to work the standard 35-40 hour week in just four days instead of cutting the hours relatively, which could have a detrimental effect on stress levels and productivity. Childcare providers don’t currently offer a solution for that length of day, and if the hours are cut to a 32-hour working week, then those who are paid on an hourly or daily rate will miss out financially.
Can you change your working hours now?
Employees with more than 26 weeks service currently have the right to make a flexible working request to their employer and employers are obliged to consider them.
Requests and appeals must be considered and decided upon within three months of the receipt of the request and employers must have a sound business reason for rejecting any request.
In terms of innovation, the UK has always been ahead of the game and so even though we are starting to see a shift towards more flexible working, we are still behind countries such as Denmark and Sweden when it comes to work-life balance.
This is part of the flexible working model we use at Reality HR – I work flexibly and I find that I am more productive, less stressed and able to focus on tasks more readily.
And with motivation levels high, empowered staff and increased productivity all proven as benefits of the shorter working week I hope we see more companies embracing it.