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.



Are you married to your job?

Does it feel like you’re married to your work? If so, you’re among more than a ¼ of British employees who feel this way…

Research led by Perkbox (and shared by Recruiting Times) shows that:

  • 45% of people routinely work more than an hour beyond their standard day – with weekends included.
  • Almost ¼ have cancelled a personal commitment, such as a date or a party, due to their work.
  • 1 in 10 say that being married to their job has caused a relationship breakdown.
  • 30% of respondents feel “like they’re always at work, even when they’re at home”.

Technology once again bears some of the brunt of the blame. 70% of employees have received out-of-hours communications via email, text or phone call. 25% even think they send more messages to their colleagues or boss than they do their friends.

A number of health implications are additionally discussed. These findings support People Management’s report, which states that: ‘always on employees are more engaged but also more stressed.’

An overworking culture…

The Perkbox study only has 2,000 respondents. However, it closely reflects wider research. For instance, the TUC’s exploration of 5 million UK workers. This reveals that a total of £2 billion worth of unpaid overtime was undertaken in 2018.

While acknowledging that many people are prepared to work some overtime when needed, the TUC suggests that there are employers who are taking advantage of their teams. As a result, they’re calling for new rights that will make such employers more accountable.

Once again, the health impact of these working practices is discussed, alongside the reduced productivity that results from a culture of overwork.

Appearances may be deceptive!

Over on HR Magazine, a separate report explores the productivity issue in more detail. This post cites research from Maxis Global Benefits Network, which found that 79% of UK office professionals work an extra three days of overtime each month.

  • 79% of people also report to a ‘desk time’ focus, meaning that they’re ‘expected to be seen at their desks’ most of the time.
  • It may be thought this would boost productivity. Yet, conversely, many employees (almost 1/3) are spreading out their workloads to appear more productive than they truly are.

You won’t be surprised to hear that this article also finds a connection between long working hours and anxiety, stress and poor work-life balance.

So, is it time to divorce your job?!

If you’re no longer enjoying your work, or you feel it’s having a negative effect on your personal life, you may want to reconsider your options. Review the latest jobs and be sure to discuss your priorities with your recruitment consultant.