With news revealing that the four-day working week trial has largely been successful, HRreview has gathered some expert insights and opinions into what happens next.

 

The impact on employee wellbeing 

Elliott Smith, the co-founder of Love Your Employees, commented:

“It’s great to see that businesses and their employees are getting positive outcomes from the four-day working week trial. Now more than ever, people are placing more importance on how and where they work. For some roles, flexible and remote working options are now expected as standard.

“There’s also more of a focus on employee wellbeing following the dramatic impact of COVID-19. Employees will be seeking out companies who are prioritising their mental and physical health – this will be the key to remaining competitive in the market.

“We fully support any initiative that can help improve wellbeing in the workplace. Work/life balance is a huge factor in this, and we would encourage businesses to look at all ways in which they can support teams whilst continuing to meet crucial business objectives.”

 

Mixed reactions 

Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula: 

“There have been mixed reactions to the four-day work week trial. 

“Some businesses (especially SMEs) have struggled because their working patterns are different from the norm – they’re struggling to communicate and meet customer/client demand due to being closed for a day where others are open. On the flip side, those finding it a success have reported fewer absences, improved retention, and higher levels of productivity. 

“The bodies behind this trial obviously want it to be successful and are looking to lead the way towards a four-day work week becoming the ‘norm’. Personally, I don’t believe that a company would sign up to participate in the trial unless they saw it being a success. 

 “The fact that only 41 out of the 73 companies taking part responded to the request for feedback shows that things might not be as positive as we are being led to believe. While the statistic of “86 percent of trial firms wanting to keep a four-day work week” certainly makes a great headline, when you look closer it’s a different picture. Taken in the context of the percentage of total participants in the trial, rather than just the 41 companies who responded, that number drops to just 47 percent. I would be interested to know how the other companies are finding things at this point.

“In terms of whether other companies are likely to adopt this trial, while there are certainly benefits for both employer and employee, I think many businesses would struggle to justify moving to this model right now, given the current economic climate. 

 “Many SMEs are struggling just to keep their doors open. Some could potentially adopt a four-day work week to save money, but it would be unlikely that this would include employees maintaining 100 percent of their salary. As living costs continue to rise, there are extra pressures on employers to support employees financially. With a four-day week, employees are saving on commuter costs, lunch expenses and childcare fees.

“Whilst a reduction in working hours will likely be favoured by many, such an outcome cannot be assumed. This is particularly important whereby the reduction in days increases the daily working hours or reduces salary.  

“Reduced days have been criticised for not recognising the underlying causes of employee burnout and dissatisfaction, namely that their workloads are overwhelming. 

“Often, employees on four-day weeks are still expected to produce the same levels of work, so find themselves more stressed due to the lack of time they have to complete it. They may feel forced to work overtime during evenings or weekends which, ultimately, can end up causing more problems than you started with.

“It will be interesting to see the full results of the trial and the wider impact on working patterns following its completion.”

 

Is working from home more sought after?

New research by TopCV found that despite already being rolled out to 3,300 employees, starting in June 2022, a four-day work week at full pay was not selected by the majority of UK workers (60%) as a top benefit. 

Whereas working from home was tried and tested by most office workers during the pandemic, these new findings indicate uncertainty surrounding the four-day work week amongst UK office workers.

Amanda Augustine, careers expert for TopCV, comments:

“In today’s post-COVID, ‘employee’s market,’ it’s clear that workers no longer just appreciate benefits that support work-life balance — they require them”, said Amanda Augustine, careers expert for TopCV.

“While a free lunch, beanbags and a foosball table may have caught the eye of new recruits pre-pandemic (when five days in the office was the norm), employees have now had a taste of more comfortably navigating their personal and home lives, and as these findings suggest, they’re unwilling to sacrifice this arrangement. Adding a new initiative to the mix, such as the four-day week will undoubtedly create more appetite among UK workers for flexible arrangements in months to come.”

 

 

 

 

 

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 the 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.