From the impact of the cost-of-living crisis to growing levels of discontent amongst the workforce, organisations face many challenges today. While in some cases the recession has driven lay-offs, the need to attract and retain top talent remains a top priority for all employers, especially amid skills shortages. To keep up with the competition, organisations need to continuously adapt to the needs of their workforce – and today, many employees dream of a four-day working week, highlights Lottie Bazley.

Following the success of the four-day week trial in the UK, a hundred businesses ranging from start-ups to enterprises, have made the shorter working week permanent. The trial’s outcome – turbocharged by increased flexibility post-pandemic – is proof that we are gradually moving away from a five-day, nine-to-five working week.

Implementing this policy, however, is easier said than done. It requires clear expectation setting, listening to the diverse needs of the workforce and timely communication. HR professionals and internal communicators (ICs) are therefore integral for ensuring a successful transition to a shorter working week and, ultimately, building a more resilient workforce during change. It comes as no surprise, then, that recent Staffbase research found that 76% of ICs are valued within their organisations post-pandemic.

So how can organisations, with the collaborative efforts of HR teams and ICs, make this shift happen successfully?

Work smarter, not harder

According to a Chartered Management Institute survey, 71% of managers are seeing signs of stress and anxiety in their workplace today, fueled by external issues like the cost of living crisis.

Importantly, the goal of implementing a four-day working week should be to improve employee wellbeing and increase productivity, not to add stress and anxiety in workforces by expecting them to work longer hours each day. Outlining clear parameters around new workplace policies and being vocal about expectations will be key to making a four-day working week a success.

Forget the one-size-fits-all approach

To determine how to best implement change, HR teams need to work with internal comms teams to listen to employees from all backgrounds. Taking into account the lifestyles of workers who might be caretakers or parents, or the different needs of desk and non-desk workers, is integral to avoid spiralling workloads.

Collecting employee feedback is also helpful to identify and resolve any potential conflicts early on. Regular one-to-one meetings, for example, are effective for getting personal feedback from employees, while employee surveys are useful for making data-driven decisions.

The backbone of effective internal comms

Since the pandemic, digital tools have become key to executing effective internal comms strategies, and they will continue to be essential for businesses shifting to the four-day working week. In fact, according to our research, all ICs have already deployed some form of digital tool to keep their workforces engaged, informed and connected.

Digital tools are essential to ensuring communication reaches employees at the right time, no matter where they are working. It could mean introducing an employee app for frontline workers who cannot be easily reached via email; rolling out an intranet for employees in administration; setting up a communication channel in Microsoft Teams for project managers; or deploying digital signage in production halls for factory workers.

The four-day working week trial in the UK has demonstrated that this is slowly becoming a reality. With strong internal communications, organisations will be better placed to transition successfully, ultimately building an engaged, healthy, productive and resilient workforce.


Lottie Bazley is the Senior Strategic Internal Communications Adviser at Staffbase.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.