Is a 4-day week the future norm?

Could a 4-day week become the new ‘norm’ for employees and help solve the nation’s working challenges? This is the core theme of multiple HR and recruitment news features published within the past fortnight.

Living in the overtime capital

The UK has sadly earned itself the moniker of ‘unpaid overtime capital of Europe.’ The average full-time employee now works around 6.3 hours of unpaid overtime weekly. This amounts to £5,000 per person each year, according to ADP research data.

You could assume this means we’re flying ahead in the productivity stakes, however, the opposite is true. What’s more, our culture of overwork could actually be at the root of this problem.

  • It’s said that the Danes are ‘23.5% more productive per hour,’ despite the fact they work 4 hours less each week.
  • The Republic of Ireland is also 62.7% more productive, yet works less than 40 hours per week. The UK averages 42 hours.
  • Apparently, if changes aren’t made, ‘it would take 63 yearsfor UK employees to receive the same amount of leisure time as the rest of Europe.

Employees call for a 4-day week

Alongside the productivity issues, UK professionals are also feeling increasingly stressed. More than 1 in 3 people feel more stressed than they did just two years ago. The respondents suggest this is due to:

  • Increased workloads (66%)
  • ‘Changing relationships’ at work (30%)
  • Not having control over their work (27%)

On being asked what would help lower their stress levels, the participants said:

  1. A 4-day working week (Almost 1/3: 30%)
  2. Greater management support (25%)
  3. Reduced responsibilities, or other work changes (13%)
  4. Stress management training (6%)
  5. Regular exercise (5%)
  6. Not receiving work emails outside of their contracted hours (5%)

Various views on the 4-day week

It’s suggested that technological advances should make a 4-day working week feasible. Yet some employers and employees have their concerns…

  • Businesses worry about paying the same salaries for reduced workloads and professionals fear that they’ll end up working fewer days yet even longer hours. Others worry that they’ll have to squeeze their existing workloads into a briefer timeframe.
  • Several examples are provided in the above-linked piece. One of which is a Surrey-based trial in which employees will work an extra hour a day in order to shorten their working week to four days/32 hours for full-timers. The workers’ stress levels will be compared at the end of it. It will be interesting to see whether the longer days/shorter weeks outweigh the associated concerns.
  • One German-company has taken a different approach: reducing each working day from eight hours to five. They say this has resulted in reduced stress and improved work-life balance. They have, however, had to implement some practical changes to help employees manage their workloads. This included reevaluating ‘social media usage and finding weekly routines’.

In conclusion…

While it doesn’t appear that 4-day working weeks will become the imminent norm, don’t be surprised if you see more UK employers experimenting with this notion. In the meantime, are there any jobs that more closely match your working priorities? For example, those with reduced commutes or more favourable hours or shifts, flexible working opportunities and other lifestyle benefits.

We’ll be sure to keep an eye out for future updates regarding this topic/how the Surrey study turns out! As well as sharing such updates via our news feed, you can also follow us over on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn.



The working parent: maternity, SPL & the untapped pool

Discussing some of the issues faced by today’s working parent…

Maternity returners are lacking confidence & left unsupported

Less than 1/5 of management-level professionals feel confident about re-entering the workplace after their maternity leave, reports People Management.

What’s more, over 1/3 of this group consider leaving their role due to feeling ‘unsupported and isolated on their return’. 90% additionally say their company provide no formal support or ‘returnship’ focus whatsoever.

The CIPD encourages businesses to provide senior level job-sharing opportunities, alongside increased flexible working, to further support these employees.

Shared parental leave take-up remains incredibly low

Of the 285,000 couples who qualify for shared parental leave (‘SPL’) annually, only 2% take advantage of this opportunity. Why is this and are employers to blame (asks HR Magazine)?

The article cites a variety of possible factors. These include:

  • Mothers not actually wishing to share their leave with their partners
  • Health factors, including the mother’s need to recover from pregnancy or birth
  • The perceived impact on fathers’ careers
  • Cultural values around ‘being the breadwinner’
  • Lack of SPL promotion at work
  • Complex workplace policies

The single working parent: the ‘untapped talent pool’

Single working parents are more likely to be unemployed than any other primary employee group, says HR Review. In fact, their unemployment rate is now two and a half times that of the British average.

Unfortunately, the new-employment rate for the single working parent has actually declined over the past five years.

These stats come from Indeed – and the company is advising businesses to consider the group as a major untapped talent pool. With 845,000 national vacancies to fill, and record national employment rates, they suggest this may be one possible solution to overcoming the skills shortage.

Once again, the notion of increased flexible and remote working is discussed.

They also reference disabled and minority ethnic employees as further talent pools. Positively, national employment rates for both of these groups have increased over the past five years.

Appoint welcomes recruitment enquiries from each of the discussed employee groups, as well as those looking to do more to attract and support them. For initial advice, please call the office on 01225 313130 or email us via the bath.info address. Here’s what to include in your cover email as a candidate.