As the UK job market continues to go through changes in the aftermath of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the way in which both employers and employees view their working week is evolving.
The increase in hybrid working and flexible hours over the last couple of years has been well-documented. But an even more drastic development might be on the horizon.
Between June and December 2022, 61 companies and 2,900 employees took part in the world’s largest trial of a four-day working week. The trial has widely been lauded as a great success, with 92% of the participating companies continuing with the change following the trial’s conclusion. Of these 56 organisations, 18 have confirmed that this is a permanent change of policy.
For employees, the 4 day week has had a positive effect on mental health, with many reporting a decrease in stress, better sleep, and a more manageable work/life balance.
But how did things look from the employers’ perspective? Equally positive, it seems.
Despite the reduced working hours for employees, revenue actually increased 1.4% on average. Not only this, but staff retention also improved, with a 57% drop in staff leaving. There was also a marked decrease in the number of sick days taken.
So could four day weeks be the future of the UK job market?
The evidence is strong that a shorter working week is good for staff morale without being detrimental to productivity. However, some industries require presence 7 days a week and/or long shifts which would make implementing four day weeks more complicated. Also, some employees may prefer a five day week over fewer hours.
Other countries including Japan and Iceland have already begun to move to four day weeks, and in Scotland, then-First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced in 2021 a fund to support firms in trialling this.
Shorter weeks would require widespread changes in the UK’s job market and culture. If it were to happen, it would no doubt be a long process. But it’s starting to look like a real possibility.