As the world of world shuffles back to the office, there is a shift away from the pre-pandemic office work environment to a ‘new normal’. Flexible or hybrid working is one aspect of this, but other countries are taking an even more prominent change with the idea of a four day working week becoming less of a novel idea from global digital companies such as Amazon and Google, and more of an approach potentially for everyone.
Scotland has recently announced £10 million in funding, pledged by the SNP, for office-based businesses to try out a shorter working schedule without cutting worker pay. Government spokespeople state that ‘the pilot will allow us to develop a better understanding of the implications of a broader shift to a shorter working week across the economy.’ England hasn’t had the government encouragement or incentive as of yet, but companies in England have already been trialing a four day working week, and many are calling for the powers that be to promote the change.
Advantages of a four day working week
The most obvious one is potentially a happier workforce, as they have longer weekends and more opportunities to travel to see family without making use of annual leave or arriving back at work tired from travel.
This additional time as a block gives more quality time for families, and potentially give industries such as hospitality and retail the chance to spread their busy periods over 3 days and not 2.
Other advantages are environmental. Even with hybrid working in place, implementing one less day a week where a significant number of people are commuting is going to reduce the number of cars in traffic jams, which could shrink the UK’s carbon footprint by 127 million tonnes per year by 2025.
Does everyone want a shorter week?
Not everyone is up for this. Firstly, many point out that as it is, this will only benefit those in office-based jobs, ruling out those in manufacturing, manual construction, call centres, retail and hospitality. This means that the mental health benefits will only go to those working either in certain industries or at a certain level. It might also make existing staff shortages in some industries even worse. However, there is another argument that the ability to spread out staffing more with busy periods over three days, not two, will help these businesses.
For systems where there are going to be slightly longer days in exchange for longer weekends, there are those concerned that family life will be affected as parents are unable to do things like help with homework and watch after school activities.
What is needed for a four day week to be put in place?
Most countries that have implemented this as a suggested way to work, put in place a trial to see what the outcome was. What sounds like an unworkable system might actually end up being a great solution to current issues. It’s only with a working trial that we will find out.
For those office-based businesses looking to implement a four day working week, office spaces need to be more flexible in their hours and accessibility. Many serviced office spaces have access 24/7, which will become a ‘must’ for businesses needing slightly longer days in exchange for long weekends. In addition, if hybrid working is also a part of the new way of working, office spaces will need to be adapted in order to ensure space is used to an optimal level.
Public transport will also need looking at, as working days potentially get longer and more regular services will need to go later into the evening in order to keep cars off of the road.