Four day week?

It could be a change prompted by the coronavirus


Why four-day working weeks may not be the utopia they seem

David Stone is half way through a six-month trial of the four-day working week and he's never been happier. “As a boss, you can get a quick win by letting your staff leave a bit early one day,” he says. “So imagine telling your staff they can get paid their full salary to only work four days. People will want to join, and they will never leave.”

Stone gets excited about staff retention. He established MRL, a niche recruitment company for the high technology market, in Brighton in 1997 and led it through the choppy waters of the dot-com crash at the beginning of the millennium, a period of rapid growth in 2007 and then another recession when Lehman Brothers went bust in 2008. It was 2015 when he saw the LinkedIn post by a former colleague called John Nash, detailing Nash’s decision to switch his own recruitment company to four-day weeks. Then he pretty much forgot about it for four years.

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Could a four day week be introduced after the lockdown?

By Joe Harker

When countries steadily come out of the lockdown a return to working life is often needing to be staggered.

Full time workers are often having to work part time as social distancing in the workplace means they cannot all be there at the same time.

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Arden has suggested a four day working week as a potential solution, boosting productivity and improving the work/life balance.

Is it a solution or just a red herring?

The Claim:

A four day week would help reduce the amount of journeys and people heading into work during the lockdown, while studies into the change finds that it usually boosts productivity by around 20 per cent.

The work lost in the time lost is made up by the productivity boost of happier, healthier employees who get more time off work.

Theoretically the same amount of work gets done in a week but the employee spends a day less in the workplace.

That would be fantastic for the pandemic-stricken world we're stuck in now, as journeys need to be reduced and workplaces cannot be too crowded. Knocking a whole day off the working week without a drop in output would be great.

It could also help employers stagger shifts during the lockdown to keep employees away from each other. If it's safer with no penalties then why aren't we doing it?

The Counter Claim:

There are critics of the four day working week who warn it isn't the utopia supporters make it out to be.

Some doubts persist over how much the boost in productivity lines up with the drop in hours worked, while there could be a disparity if some companies adopt the four day week and others stick to five.

It's also not for everyone. A four day week is good for contracted employees who won't see their pay drop but for those on contracts where the work is dependent upon a daily rate will see a significant hit to their earnings.

It's not enough to slap a four day week on the economy and call it a job done.

There are also political opponents of the switch who believe shortening the working week is a way to let the country fall behind nations who keep longer working hours.

The Facts:

Around 63 per cent of Brits support a four day working week in theory.

Lowering the number of days each person works could be the key to staggered shifts where places remain open with a lower number of employees but everyone gets a chance to go back to work.

There is much talk about how much the coronavirus will change working habits and what we perceive to be "normal life", perhaps the working week will be part of what changes.

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