Is the UK ready for the Four-Day Working Week?

It’s no surprise that UK workers are looking for new ways to get through the working week. After the impact of COVID-19 transformed the way many of us work, there are calls for a four-day working week, giving us more time away from the workplace without impacting productivity. The five-day working week has always been the norm in the UK, but with time off from its restrictive nature, many people want to see change.

There is call for a shorter working week, but to put it into practice is a more complex process. Is it something we could all benefit from, or would it cause more problems than it solves?

The Argument for a Four-Day Working Week

Four-day working weeks can either mean 28 hours worked a week or employees condense their full-time hours over four days rather than five. Those who are keen for a four-day week being adopted argue that technology has made many working processes more efficient, so people are simply not needed in the same way.

Trials of the four-day working week have been successful in other countries, with Microsoft’s trial in Japan showing productivity increased by 40%. A more recent trial in Iceland found similar success levels and they now have a shorter week for most employees, with the same pay level.

Four-day working week advocates say it’s the best way to work because:

  • Productivity levels increase: employees spend less time at work and this gives them more free time, making them more happy and fulfilled. This results in the hours spent in work being more productive.
  • Environmental benefits – a shortened working week means less commuting and a reduced carbon footprint
  • Better employee retention – the CIPD report most people think flexible working is better for their quality of life. Employees who have the choice to work their hours over fewer days may be more keen to stay with your company and benefit from this flexible approach.

The Argument against a Four-Day Working Week

There are many reasons why a four-day working week simply isn’t possible, especially in some sectors, so it can see unfair. The arguments against the idea include:

  • Certain industries are excluded: there are a wide range of industries which require a 24/7 presence and while this could be carried out by different individuals over their four-day week, it poses a problem when there are already staff shortage. Shorter working weeks will make industries where there is already demand for staff even more difficult to cover.
  • Plugging the gap: some professions require tasks which may take place over five days, with four days simply not offering the scope needed for the business. A four-day working week would mean these industries need to paying more in overtime to keep staff on or draft in new members of staff, resulting in higher costs overall.

The four-day working week is an interesting concept which many people do seem to be on board with. However, many industries have already adapted to allow their employees to work flexibly or remotely, so a formal change may not be something we need.