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Is the four-day working week becoming a reality?

Four day working week

Today, BBC News is carrying an article detailing how almost all of the 61 employers who took part in last year’s 4 Day Week Global trial plan to keep their new shorter work weeks.

The trial took place between June and December and included private sector and non-profit organisations. The report on the trial found that there were “extensive benefits” for those taking part, most notably (but perhaps unsurprisingly) for employees’ wellbeing.

More than 3,300 workers from 70 UK companies started working a four-day week with no reduction in salary, based on the so-called 100:80:100 model – that is 100% of pay for 80% of the time in exchange for a commitment to maintaining 100% productivity.

Ed Siegel, chief executive of Charity Bank, one of the businesses involved in this pilot, said this as the pilot kicked off:

“The 20th-century concept of a five-day working week is no longer the best fit for 21st-century business. We firmly believe that a four-day week with no change to salary or benefits will create a happier workforce and will have an equally positive impact on business productivity, customer experience and our social mission.”

- Ed Siegel, Charity Bank

The report's authors state that, whilst recognising that organisations volunteered to join and so had a vested interest in making it work, the results make a convincing case for a shorter working week.

Juliet Schor from Boston College, one of the universities behind the trial, explained "Whether we're talking about revenue, attrition, self-reports of productivity, employee well-being and costs, we had really good results."

Only 23 of the participating companies provided financial data, showing that revenue had broadly stayed the same over the six months of the trial, but most of the companies said they were happy with productivity and performance outcomes.

An impressive 56 of the 61 companies said they would, at least for now, continue with the four-day week. Eighteen of those have already committed to a permanent change.

the importance of good Internal Comms

One of the keys to making this work is, of course, a robust internal comms strategy that ensures any lessening of crossover time within teams does not convert to less (or broken) communication. The truth is there are so many ways to communicate effectively and in engaging ways (whether that’s across remote teams or physical workplaces) that a reduction in shared time and physical space should not be a barrier. Any comms strategy must give full consideration to non-wired (or deskless) colleagues who are potentially at greater risk of not receiving vital top-down comms as and when intended.

If further flexibility is something your organisation is exploring, then health-checking your comms set-up is vital. It would be devastating to be forward-thinking enough to embrace these most modern of working practices, only to have them falter because of something as fundamental as robust and effective comms.

Back to this new report, and Simon Ursell, MD of Tyler Grange, an environmental consultancy and one of the companies that has fully embraced the four-day working week, explained how they made it work.

Rather than compressing five days’ work into four, which would have put too much pressure on staff, they took the opportunity to streamline and remove unnecessary meetings, travel, and admin. He explained:

"Fundamentally, if you give people this incredible incentive of a whole day of their time a week, they are going to work really hard to make it work."

- Simon Ursell, Tyler Grange

He now claims that his staff are doing 2% more in four days than they used to do in five. On top of that, his team is happier, absenteeism has shrunk by two-thirds and applications to work at the company are pouring in.

These results reflect the overall findings of the report: staff in businesses taking part in the trial were much less inclined to call in sick, and more motivated to stay with their employer, thus reducing recruitment and training costs.

Of course, a four-day working week is not going to work for every kind of organisation, but these are very promising early results for companies that do want to take this most modern of steps. With careful planning, a robust comms strategy, and a real commitment to change at all levels of the business, this just could be the way to max out your employee satisfaction and retention, and attract the very best new talent to your business.


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