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New evidence suggests the 4 day working week is good for business. Really?

A few of us may remember the three day week implemented by the Heath Government in 1974. Working hours dropped but almost as much was produced in three days as had been five.

Now researchers writing in the Harvard Business Review say half the businesses they surveyed recently reported implementing a four day week for some or all staff.

Among the benefits claimed to have been realised are:

  • Reduced burnout
  • Reduced employee sickness
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved work quality
  • Increased employee well being
  • Competitive edge for their employer brand
  • Better able to attract Generation Z applicants
  • An overwhelmingly positive effect of flexible working on retention

For those employees who commute to work there is less time and energy expended, and obviously commensurate environment benefits. The benefits of less commuting are also achievable with homeworking, of course.

But there are downsides:

  • Administrative challenges
  •  Complications in work contracts
  • Staff scheduling
  • Operational complexities
  • Increased labour costs
  • Not all businesses seem to have found it improved competitiveness
  • Lastly, many employees’ reported guilt feelings at working fewer hours!

The pluses and minuses vary a little from sector to sector and from one job role to another.

But with increasing evidence that we will all need to work fewer hours in the future the four day week should not be dismissed too lightly.

Malcolm Martin FCIPD

Author Human Resource Practice