The four-day workweek is on the cusp of becoming mainstream and it’s easy to see why it appeals to so many people. A three-day weekend provides an extra day to unwind, spend time with family, run errands, pursue a hobby or travel on a short getaway.
Employers are also warming to the idea of lifting employee satisfaction without having to compromise on productivity. The proportion of UK businesses offering a four-day schedule to some or all of their staff jumped from 50% to 65% between 2019 and 2021, according to a longitudinal study by Henley Business School.
Interim findings from 4 Day Week Global’s six-month pilot indicate the four-day week is a winner for 86% of participating businesses and is many are now makingit a permanent working practice. Meanwhile, GM and Ford are reportedly keeping their eyes on the pilot, which is taking place in the UK, suggesting strong interest in flexible working policies among the auto industry’s legacy brands.
A shorter workweek certainly sounds good on paper. But can employers make it work in practice? We’ll cover the benefits of this model and how to ensure it works well for your team.
The Benefits of a Four-Day Week
It’s no surprise that a short working week is popular among employees. Following an 18-month trial of a four-day workweek in New Zealand, consumer goods giant Unilever observed a notable uptick in worker well-being without sacrificing productivity. More than two-thirds (67%) of employees reported a better work–life balance, while stress dropped by 33% and employee ‘strength and vigour’ at work rose by 15%.
Meanwhile, Henley Business School researchers found 66% of UK participating employers reduced business costs (up from 51% in 2019), while 64% said they were able to maintain the quality of their output. For these companies, employee satisfaction has risen while sickness has dropped – a win-win outcome for leaders and teams alike.
The Four-Day Workweek as an Employee Attraction Tool
Workers in virtually every industry now consider work-life balance more an essential benefit than a luxury. As LinkedIn’s 2022 Global Talent Trends survey shows, when candidates choose a new role, work-life balance and flexible work follow closely behind compensation on their list of priorities.
With employee attraction already a competitive prospect in automotive engineering, a four-day workweek is a critical advantage to employers angling for the best talent. About 68% of businesses already on a four-day workweek say that flexible working options help them attract the right talent, according to Henley Business School’s research.
How to Make it Work
Any change to company policy of this magnitude does require that you look before you leap. Committing to a trial period of several months can help managers determine how specific teams, divisions and the company at large are impacted before the policy becomes permanent.
Some organisations might need to institute a pay reduction in exchange for reduced hours. If this is the only way your company can offer a four-day workweek within budget, keep in mind that some employees might not be able to afford the trade-off.
On the upside, many employers have reported either an uptick in productivity or no change in output after eliminating a whole workday, which has enabled them to avoid salary reductions. Companies that can harness this optimal scenario are likely to hold a major drawcard for new talent.
Don’t Forget Worker Wellbeing
On paper, implementing a four-day work workweek can seem like a logical progression if flexible work policies are already in place. But it won’t hurt to keep an eye on performance strategies, to ensure worker wellbeing stays at the centre.
In a recent case study, a medium-sized company found that although employees saw the shorter week as beneficial and some enjoyed the faster pace of work, the policy appeared to intensify managers’ focus on performance and productivity. Some employees felt “the urgency and pressure was causing heightened stress levels,” the researchers noted in the study.
Teams must be allowed to redesign aspects of their daily schedules to make the remaining workdays manageable. A compressed workweek can quickly reveal how many meetings might be better off as emails, for example.
It makes little sense to adopt a four-day workweek at the expense of either productivity or worker morale. A well-implemented policy will balance each of these considerations.
A growing body of research points towards the huge benefits of a four-day workweek. With UK data highlighting how a shorter week can be a powerful employee attraction tool, it may be time to consider how you can make this policy work in your organisation.
Candidates are especially keen on being measured by results and not by how many hours they spend working. The key is to experiment, listen to employees, and observe what works best for everyone.
For tailored advice on how to implement the best employee attraction strategies in your business, get in touch with our friendly and knowledgeable team. As automotive engineering recruitment specialists, we understand what makes candidates and employers tick. Find out how to stay ahead of the curve and find the talent you need – call us today.