The Rise of the Four-Day Week: Increasing Productivity, Decreasing Stress

In this age of health and well-being enlightenment and innovative working models, businesses are increasingly appreciating employees needs and focusing on the importance of seemingly covert elements of work, such as equality and diversity, company culture and providing appropriate support. Yet, as a nation, we are still behind. A recent study from the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has found that full-time employees in Britain worked an average of 42 hours a week in 2018, nearly two hours more than the EU average – which is the equivalent to an extra two and a half weeks a year. TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady states that other EU countries have shown that “reducing working hours is not only good for workers, it can boost productivity.” Could the rise of the four-day week be the solution to common productivity setbacks?

Here at Russell King Associates, we are proud members of the Healthy Workplace Charter which means that we are committed to continually improving health and well-being and making positive changes in our workplace environment. Being a recruitment consultancy, we are always working with diverse individuals and so as part of our commitment to the Healthy Workplace, we make it a priority to be considerate towards everyone, from colleagues to clients and candidates. As an advocate for a healthier and happier workplace, we are always interested in new workplace trends and models that support individual needs such as flexible working and working from home. These workplace models, including the four-day week, are increasingly being discussed among our clients and business partners as potential solutions with great stress reducing and productivity increasing benefits.

Attempting to justify making the drastic change to a shorter working week may be hard at first, but the benefits of a healthier and happier workforce are endless. The four-day week can potentially lead to several positive employee attraction and retention benefits. The extra rest day will provide employees with a greater work/life balance, resulting in a team of well-rounded and well-rested individuals. There could also be tremendous long-term economic benefits, including the instant reduction in overhead costs simply by office maintenance fees being cut. As well as the social and economic benefits, a four-day week could bring unexpected environmental benefits. Jared Fitzgerald of Boston College in Massachusetts claims that “as an overall sustainability issue, it can be pretty powerful” and it is not hard to imagine how one less day of commuter pollution would critically reduce carbon footprint.

There are of course some potential negative aspects to consider, mainly the risk of this being an experimental structure with not many long-term working models from existing organisations to analyse and compare. There is also, of course, the risk of workers being overworked in the shorter time frame to make up for the extra day. However, the most important thing is to be open to considering possible new routes into increasing productivity and observe current protocols which may be preventing maximum productivity.

Is your company doing anything different to tackle workplace stress? Do you think the four-day working week will be a positive and welcome change? Let us know the current productivity positives and pitfalls that your organisation is faced with.