In a constantly changing working world, Label volunteer, Annabel Smith, explores the idea of a ‘4 Day Work Week’ and whether it could be the way forward as we move into a post-Covid working environment.
Working in a post-Covid world has changed the way many of us think about our work-life balance and has changed many employers’ thoughts on employee productivity. While most people unquestionably work Monday to Friday, the four-day work week could be the way forward.
The five-day working week is thought to have been adopted by Henry Ford, who first gave his workers two days off per week. He believed this would increase their productivity and also increase the demand for cars, with more employees using their time off to drive to locations away from home for the weekend. This approach to working then spread across businesses in North America and the world followed, leading to our acceptance of this as the norm. With rapid advancements in technology making work processes quicker, is the five-day work week still effective or even necessary? Many people work within the digital sector or use technology at some point within their job, meaning the traditional Monday-to-Friday office job actually takes up a lot less time than in previous years.
Additionally, Covid has massively impacted how employees think about their working environments, especially with many businesses still continuing with remote or hybrid working. We have become accustomed to online meetings and email conversations, with many of these changes being quicker and also reducing employees’ needs to commute to work, meaning workers can spend time working more efficiently rather than travelling. The employment agency Reed found in a survey that 83% of their LinkedIn followers favoured a four-day working week following the Pandemic, further highlighting how this way of working is the new normal and preferred.
As the cost of living rapidly rises, working for an employer who supports the four-day work week at full salary gives workers the chance to pick up a second job if needed. As the cost of living is rapidly increasing, many people need to take on second jobs which is made much easier if your main employer is supportive of the four-day work week. Also, employees with children or caring responsibilities can better manage those dependent on them if they have that extra day off, and an extra day off is also extremely useful for workers suffering with mental health issues, disabilities, or chronic pain as they are less likely to need time off work if they are given time to rest in the first place.
So where do these workplace changes begin? As the UK has accepted the four-day work week more following the Pandemic, some countries are already miles ahead, particularly Iceland. The Icelandic Government’s four-year study into the four-day work week found it to be extremely successful, leading to over 80% of the country’s employees currently working four days a week for the same amount of pay and resulting in equal or increased productivity. Arguably, this improved working culture allows employees to properly switch off from work related stresses and work more productively in an environment which is less pressurised. Therefore, we can ask; is the UK simply hanging on to tradition by keeping the five-day week if the four-day week is so much more effective? In a nation where this is currently shifting, time will tell whether this becomes a permanent factor within the UK’s work culture.