Tag: four day work week

Four-day weeks and flexible hours remain top of list

New research from ManpowerGroup & Thrive has revealed that:

  • 45% of workers want to choose their own work start and end times.
  • 64% want to switch to a four-day week
  • 71% need trust in leadership to thrive
  • 34% want to choose where they work based on their daily needs
  • Well-being is an crucial strategy for hiring and business success

The What Workers Want: From Surviving to Thriving at Work data also revealed that workers are need their employers to help them shift from surviving to thriving, prioritising flexibility along with factors such as trust, purpose, and well-being.

While flexibility may be a lasting result of the pandemic, it requires individualisation. Workers are demanding choice, autonomy, and consideration for their well-being.

The highest talent shortages in 16 years indicate that workers at almost every level and in every sector have the upper hand and employers need to pay attention.

Leaders must be willing to to listen, adapt, and think differently about how to approach flexibility, not just flexible working.

Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO of Thrive said: “This is a time of constant change and disruption, but it’s also a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine how we work and live. Forward-thinking companies need to do away with the zero-sum idea of work and life reflected in the myth of ‘work-life balance’ by embedding well-being into the workflow itself, and investing in our most important resource: our people.”

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73% of workers will accept a four-day work week if pay does not decrease

A survey of over 2,000 UK workers and 250 UK employers found that flexible work is more popular among job seekers than a four-day work week.

Despite 37% of employers implementing a four-day working week, recent research from Reed.co.uk has found that candidates are more likely to apply for a job offering “flexible working” opportunities (45%) than a “four-day working week” (40%). “Work from home” followed at 32%, and “opportunity to progress” was noted at 31%.

According to the research, despite 89% of workers favouring a four-day working week, flexible work remains the more popular alternative for employers seeking to generate job applications. Flexible working is defined as a way of working that suits the individual’s needs, with flexible start and finishing times and/or the freedom to work from home.

The research also found that only 16% of workers would accept a pay reduction in exchange for a shorter week. Seventy-three percent of respondents were open to the shorter week if pay did not decrease.

Over a third (37%) of employers have implemented a four-day working week, and 27% are considering it.

Generally, the reasons for employers’ support of the four-day working week are focused on employee wellbeing. The benefits cited include:

  • “better work-life balance” (51%)
  • “increased employee happiness” (43%)
  • “higher employee engagement” (41%)
  • “increased productivity” (36%)
  • “reduction of burnout” (36%)

James Reed, Chairman of Reed.co.uk, comments: “Despite strong arguments in favour of a four-day working week, evidenced also by recent UK trials, our research suggests that it may not be the best or most popular way for businesses to attract and retain top talent.

“The National Forum for Health and Wellbeing at Work has suggested that cramming five days’ work into four might contribute to stress. Instead, offering greater flexibility could be more impactful and more popular.

“Amid a highly competitive labour market, it’s encouraging to see so many employers open to exploring new and creative methods to attract candidates. The era of the traditional 9-to-5, five day working week is over and it’s now more important than ever for employers and employees alike to embrace flexible and inclusive working patterns that will allow everyone to contribute to the workforce.”

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Half of employees report higher productivity with new arrangement

The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) has just announced a decision to implement a four-day work week for its 820 employees with no reduction in salary.

Following a large-scale, two-year trial the company took the decision in response to positive employee feedback. According to a staff survey:

  • 83% of employees reported that they were happier
  • 50% of employees felt that they were more productive
  • 42% reported increased energy levels
  • 40% experienced better mental health

According to MTC’s calculations, the new flexible working arrangement will save 664 tonnes of carbon each year, helping the company meet its sustainability goals.

The trial began in April 2020 and gave 615 employees across the organisation a variety of  flexible working arrangements – one of which was a four-day week.

Alongside the employee feedback, Loughborough University conducted a separate external evaluation and found that employees felt “overwhelmingly positive” about the arrangement and that it was also a very attractive feature for new recruits.

MTC will now work with various industrial partners, including Rolls-Royce, Siemens, and Meggitt, to share their data and lessons learnt from the trial.

Vicki Sanderson, HR Director at the Manufacturing Technology Centre, said: “We’ve been operating flexible working patterns since April 2018, but employee engagement surveys have shown that staff wanted to extend this further.”

“We explored a range of options, including researching what was important for Millennials and Generation Z, as 79% of our workforce fall into these categories. Work-life balance was the priority, and our survey results reflected this.”

“The positive impact on staff was evident. After 12 months of the trial, 96% wanted the Fully Flexible Working Week to be adopted permanently, and these changes have had a direct impact on improving the mental and physical wellbeing of our employees, while improving business productivity.”

“We know that in manufacturing especially, it’s very difficult for some roles to be offered flexibly, for example, the opportunity for more home working. But other ways to do this should be considered, and our study has proved this is possible,” said Sanderson.

Dr Clive Hickman OBE, Chief Executive of the Manufacturing Technology Centre, said: “Flexible working has been the norm at the MTC long before the pandemic, but employees told us there was more we could do. The result is our Fully Flexible Working Week, including a four-day week, which I’m proud to be making permanent. The MTC is striving to become the most attractive employer in the country, and this is a big step towards achieving that.”

Dr Ella-Mae Hubbard, Lecturer at Loughborough University and author of the external evaluation, said: “It is clear from our study that there are strong feelings about the trial. For the MTC employees, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and for newer members of staff, these new policies were one of the main reasons that they joined the MTC.”

Andrew Peters, Managing Director at Siemens Digital Industries Congleton, said: “Siemens AG quickly committed to a permanent hybrid way of working and while this has provided many of our employees more flexibility, the management of this change has been of critical importance.”

“Central to managing this has been lots of active listening, open communication, and empathetic leadership. We have taken an agile approach in making small changes, seeking lots of feedback from our employees before committing to bigger decisions. Alongside this, we are also dedicating more of our time to adapting and developing our culture.”

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Nearly half of workers done expect employers to make the change

With 70 UK companies trialling a four-day working week trial, research from recruitment agency, Aspire has shown that 73% of the workforce would be keen to move to a four-day week, but 45.2% don’t think that their employer will make the transition

The survey of over 800 candidates from various industries – including marketing, sales, technology, and the creative industries – explored the key trends impacting the world of work in 2022.

The four-day working week pilot project involves over 3,300 workers across 70 companies reducing working hours without any change in salary. The shortened working week is being suggested as a solution to the UK’s productivity problem, contributing to the UK’s net-zero targets and working towards a better work-life balance for employees.

The research showed that only 14.2% are confident, and only 10.7% are very confident that their employer will transition to a four-day working week in the future. In comparison, 45.2% of workers have no confidence or doubt that employers will make the change. A further 29.9% of respondents are unsure.

Paul Farrer, Chairman, and Founder of Aspire, commented: “It’s no surprise that workers want to receive five days’ pay for four days’ work. The question is, can they be as or more productive? This pilot scheme will make interesting reading. Naturally, not all jobs can as productive when one day a week is lost, particularly manual work. So the four day week risks creating a two-speed country. Those paid or charging by the hour will be challenged as to how they could make it work.”

“Personally, I’m sceptical. The early responses of those trialling a four day week found that employees get more rest, but our own research shows that 28% already have a side hustle, with a further 20% intending to create one. What’s more, most employees would like to work on this full time in due course. This leaves employers potentially paying to lose their employees.”

“In the current competitive jobs market, a shorter working week has obvious appeal, but it also poses huge risks – the biggest of which is actually trialling it. After the initial honeymoon period of increased activity, businesses must consider how they would address a potential productivity decline. How do you revert back to a five day week? The pilot will be interesting when four day week companies are measured against their five day competitors. I know of one company that has operated a four day week since January and they are witnessing increased productivity. Taken at face value it proves the concept works, but when compared to their competitors they have fallen behind.”

“Given the appetite for a four day week, it could be decisive when it comes to attracting talent and retaining staff. But where it might offer an advantage in recruitment and employee wellbeing when the economy is growing, employers must carefully consider if it will deliver a commercial advantage and work logistically in the long run.”

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New survey looks at popular issues facing the future of work

According to Emburse’s new YouGov survey of 1,000 British office workers, it was found that 68% of British office workers would consider working from the office full-time if their commute was fully paid for. However, 27% of respondents wouldn’t consider coming back into the office full time, even if costs were covered by their employers.

The survey revealed that two-thirds agreed that Wednesday was the best day to work from the office if given a choice. On the other hand, Friday was the least popular office day at only 10%.

The top incentive to go back to the office was a four-day workweek (59%). Other findings related to incentives included:

  • Fully-paid commute: 52%
  • More paid holidays: 51%
  • Employer-paid lunch in the office: 30%
  • Reimbursement for lunch expenses: 24%
  • Paid childcare on workdays: 14%

The survey also found that most are not concerned about proximity bias, but 24% worry about career prospects.

Kenny Eon, GM and SVP EMEA at Emburse, commented: “The impacts of COVID and the Great Resignation mean that companies need to be more employee-centric in their approach, and humanising the workplace has never been more important. Part of this means ensuring team members get the best possible work environment. Whilst working remotely is certainly convenient for employees, there are clear benefits of having in-person interactions, as well as the cultural importance of bringing teams together. Data clearly shows that they are more productive than audio or video meetings, so there needs to be a balance between convenience and productivity. A relatively small investment from employers could have a significant impact in driving more in-office collaboration.”

“Given the sharp increase in the cost of living, businesses should consider how they can support staff by reducing the financial burden of attending the office in-person. Reimbursing travel and lunches can certainly help do this. It also doesn’t have to mean endless time on paperwork, as expense apps can make the process easy for both the employee and the finance team.”

With inflation reaching a 30-year-high of 7% and national insurance hikes, clearly, commute costs are deterring workers from returning to the office.

Employers will need to observe and respect their employees’ preferences to create a hybrid working arrangement to shape and maintain a productive workforce.

 

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Trials indicate increased productivity and employee wellbeing
Approximately 30 British companies will be taking part in a four-day work week trial has been launched in the UK as part of a global pilot organised by governments, think tanks, and the organisation ‘4 Day Week Global’. During the pilot, it’s said that employees will be offered 100% of their usual pay, for 80% of their time, yet maintaining 100% productivity. Studies have shown that the four-day week can boost productivity and employee wellbeing.
Harriet Calver, Senior Associate at Winckworth Sherwood, says that the four-day work week is not a new phenomenon. Many employees in the UK already work a four-day week, however, this is typically agreed on a case-by-case basis between employee and employer following a flexible working request. It tends to be accompanied by a corresponding reduction in pay, except in the case of “compressed hours” in which case the employee is simply squeezing the same number of hours into a shorter week.

BENEFITS FOR BUSINESS 

Gill Tanner, Senior Behavioural Scientist at CoachHub, believes that one of the key advantages is that employees would benefit from a better work/life balance and an extra day on the weekend would mean staff would have the opportunity to realise other ambitions outside of work and spend more meaningful time with family and friends, engage in more exercise or find a new hobby – all of which result in improved mental and physical health and higher levels of happiness. And this will result in less burnout and reduced levels of stress.

But in what ways could the reduced working week benefit employers? Improving employee happiness and well-being has many potential commercial benefits for employers such as increased performance and productivity, reduced absenteeism, recruitment and retention; and it could have a positive effect DE&I.

POTENTIAL DRAWBACKS

Gill Tanner believes that completing five days’ worth of work in just four days could be more stressful for some. Employees will need more focus and have much less time for lower productivity activities.  Additionally, some employers and businesses may find the four-day week detrimental to operations. For example, a decline in levels of customer support on days staff aren’t in the office. So, careful thought needs to be given to how this might be executed.

According to Harriet Calver, if an organisation is asking for 100% productivity from employees in consideration for a reduction in working hours, it is going to be critical to have the right support, technology and workplace culture in place to enable this.

Although the success of the four-day working week model relies on employees doing fewer hours, there is a danger that there may not be enough hours in those four days to complete the work. Therefore, working hours could creep up to previous levels if the workload is the same, resulting in longer and more stressful days for these employees.

In customer facing businesses, a potential pitfall of the four-day working week is not being able to properly service customers leading to poor customer satisfaction. For example, if an organisation shuts its office on the fifth day, when it was previously open, customers may complain they cannot access services when they want to, or previously could. Whilst this could be a potential issue for some organisations, it should be overcome fairly easily by most simply by keeping the business open for five days a week but staggering the days which employees do their four days so the entire week is still covered.

According to Gill Tanner, employers should consider the following before implementing a four-day week:

  1. What are your reasons for implementing a four-day week?
  2. Consult with employees and other stakeholders regarding a four-day week. What are their thoughts? How might it work?
  3. Provide clarity regarding what is expected in terms working hours, performance levels, days off, remuneration, ways of working etc.
  4. Ensure there is sufficient coverage to run the business as is required and to have continuity.
  5. Think about the situation from the customer/client perspective (and other stakeholders) and how they might be affected
  6. Consider the communication plan: who needs to be communicated to and by when?
  7. Reflect on your current company culture.  Is it one of trust and ownership, values that are key to this kind of working? If not, is it the right time to implement such a big transition?  Are there other steps you need to take first?
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