Introducing a four-day working week: pros, cons and considerations

Everybody loves a long three-day weekend; bank holidays are always a cause for excitement. But what if you scrapped the traditional five-day week and made this the norm?

Following the recent news that Scotland is set to trial a four-day working week, it has left many UK business owners and HR leaders wondering what the pros and cons of a shorter working week are and how it could be implemented.

Would your business soar? Or would productivity take a hit?

Advantages of a four-day working week

So, what exactly are the positives of a four-day working week?

Reduced costs

A four-day week can cut costs for everyone. The obvious one is that given the office would be closed for one extra day a week, running costs would see a significant drop.

Additionally, employees would be paying less to commute and would see cut costs in expenses like lunch and coffees during the day.

Happier employees

Having a three-day weekend leaves employees with more free time. Not many people will complain about that. Having more time to do the things you love increases overall happiness and can increase company loyalty.

Fewer health issues

According to charity Mind, 1 in 6 of us experience mental health problems in any given week. Having a long weekend will allow people to spend more time with their friends and family and do things that they love, which will naturally lead to an improvement in wellbeing.

Increase in productivity levels

Discontented staff tend to distract their co-workers. The general theory behind a shorter week is that happier, more fulfilled employees are more focused on their job when actually in the workplace.

Recruitment and retention

In a post-COVID working environment, being able to offer a more flexible work pattern is a perk that persuades employees to stay at a company. Knowing they’ll be getting a three-day weekend is one that keeps employees motivated week-on-week. It’s still a relatively rare offering and can be a great way to get the best talent through the door – and keep them engaged, too.

Disadvantages of a four-day work week

It doesn’t suit every business model and sector

A four-day week model doesn’t suit every business. It’s an option that is only viable for companies that can re-adapt their whole business to a new way of working.

Adopting a different way of working is a big step, so you’ll need to consider whether a four-day week is right for your company. It will be difficult to implement for shift workers and part-time workers.

Also, the four-day working week model does not suit every sector. Some businesses or professions require a 24/7 presence which would make a shortened work week unpractical and, in some cases, delay work – creating longer lead times.

Longer hours and work-related stress

Most employees on a four-day week will most likely be expected to work the same number of hours per week, but in four days instead of five. In this case, shifts might be extended to 10 or 12 hours – long working days.

Longer days could have a significant effect on your employees’ stress levels and therefore their overall wellbeing and productivity.

Implementing a four-day working week

As a business leader or HR manager, there are several key steps and considerations to make when implementing a reduced working week.

Company consultation

It’s vital that before overhauling your business’s working week, all staff are fully consulted and their opinions taken into consideration. A useful way to do this would be through an anonymous survey where employees are more likely to be open and honest with their feedback.

Client consultation

Just as organisations need to consult employees about a change to working hours, if the shift could impact clients or customers in any way then it’s vital they are also consulted. Clients pay the company’s wages, so they need to be informed about potential changes to ensure your relationship is not affected.

Although the shortened work week has taken off in European countries and been successful for many UK businesses, it is an extreme change for a company to take and requires a shift in mindset from the employer and employees for it to work effectively, so it may not be for everyone.

While a more flexible approach to working hours is now expected from employees, a less disruptive, more gradual process would be adopting a hybrid or flexible working policy instead before taking the leap to a reduced working week.

Thinking of implementing a four-day working week? If you need advice on how you can go about this, enlist an independent HR advisor for guidance.