Four-day week: the way forward?

The traditional 9-to-5, five days a week has been a thing for as long as any of us can remember. It stems from the days when people worked in factories, and it worked. But with the emergence of new technology and changing attitudes – coupled with the ability to do many jobs remotely – things may be set to change.

It already happens in some European countries and much to the excitement of the local workforce, a big four Guernsey employer unveiled plans earlier this year to test a four-day week this summer.

PwC staff in Guernsey, Jersey and Alderney are currently living the four-day week, in a trial which sees them doing reduced hours on the same pay. The aim, says the firm, is for higher productivity per hour.

PwC Channel Islands’ senior partner, Nick Vermeulen, said the firm was keen to embrace a new model of work focusing on quality of output rather than quantity of hours.

‘Workers have emerged from the pandemic with different expectations around what constitutes a healthy work-life balance,’ he said.

‘Although we’ve had strong flexibility policies for our own people here at PwC for some time now, we’re determined to do even more to be a great, innovative employer, rewarding and retaining both our current teams, as well as being a magnet for future talent on the islands.’

Let’s face it, as a candidate if you’re faced with two similar propositions but one firm is working a traditional 5-day week and the other gives you an extra day off, we all know which we would opt for. Of course, a reduced working week wouldn’t suit every business. For example, very small companies may not have enough members of staff to cover Monday to Friday. Plus, staff who are used to working 8 hours a day might find 10 hours a bit much. But research and trials elsewhere have found a host of benefits, including:

  • Happier employees

Having an extra day in the week to spend with friends and family, or to carry out basic ‘life admin’ tasks that always get pushed of the bottom of the ‘to do’ list.

  • Fewer health issues

A longer weekend or a break in the middle of the week allows for an extra lie in and time to recharge the batteries. Having time to do the things you enjoy improves mental wellbeing.

  • Increased productivity

Tired or unhappy workers tend to chat and distract their co-workers. We lose focus. But trials of the four-day week elsewhere have found employees are more focused during the shorter week.

  • Recruitment and retention tool

It’s a fantastic carrot to dangle when recruiting. Who wouldn’t choose four days over five?

With local trials still underway and most of the world still sticking with the traditional model, it remains to be seen whether a four-day week is the way forward. But it’s certainly something to consider when addressing the issue of recruiting and retaining staff.

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