Can a Four-Day Working Week Increase Productivity?

A four-day workweek is an arrangement where a workplace has its employees work over the course of four days a week as opposed to the traditional five-day week, without any changes to their salary or employee benefits.

Many countries and industries are experimenting with the idea of a four-day week, a revolution which has been catalysed by the covid pandemic forcing office workers to ditch the commute and instead, work from home.

One industry keen to explore the idea of a four-day week is Payroll. The CIPP (Chartered institute of payroll professionals) quick poll found that 75% of their respondents would welcome a 4-day week. With strict BACS deadlines and quick turnaround times, already stressed payroll teams need ways to make their processing more efficient. IGsend’s instant payment solution will help facilitate this by removing the 3 days wait required with BACS.

Our latest blog explores the four-day working week, looking at both the positive and negative impact it has had on businesses who have already switched.

‘Four day working week makes crazy difference for Ipswich company’

A company in Ipswich has made the transition to a four-day working week following a successful trial run after noticing the positive impact it made on their staff’s wellbeing.

The company has 16 members of staff in total, and everybody gets a four-day week with employees able to achieve more in work.

The owners said, “We saw that a lot of our staff were getting run down, ill often and were just not as bright and sparkly as they could be.” They noticed a massive reduction in sickness, and employees are now healthier as they are no longer feeling overworked with only two days to decompress before work again.

Two of the staff members have now completed further qualifications in a hobby they enjoy, and the business owner said that “From a mental health perspective, it has been invaluable and has allowed everyone to dramatically improve their lives.” The company hasn’t suffered either, as the business owner said their revenue has increased.


Pros to the four-day working week

Employee wellbeing

Some pros of the four-day working week include improved employee morale with fewer absences, and better recruitment, and retention of staff.

The shorter working week could lead to more productive staff as they are likely to be less fatigued, meaning better focus o on their role when they are in work.

Better recruitment

The recruitment process will improve as the four-day working week is appealing and should therefor attract more talented employees. Research shown that 63% of businesses found it easier to attract and keep staff members with the four-day working week.

Cost saving

The four-day working week can also cut costs, for everyone. Given offices will be closed for an extra day, there will be a drop in running costs.

Employees will also be spending less money commuting and on food for their lunch breaks. A three-day weekend will also leave employees happier because they have more free time and an improved work/life balance, this could in turn increase customers’ loyalty to businesses.


Cons to the four-day working week

Not all industries can work a four-day week

The four-day working week doesn’t suit all industries or workers, and it can increase costs for businesses. Examples of industries that it doesn’t suit is emergency services or public transport networks as these require employees seven days a week, it’s an option that is only viable for companies who can re adopt their whole business to a new way of working.

Longer days required

Many employees on a four-day week will most likely be expected to work the same 40-hour week, but in four days instead of five. In this case, shifts might be extended to 10 hours. Longer days could have a significant effect on your employees’ stress levels and therefore their overall wellbeing and productivity. And although the theory is that more time away from work benefits an employee’s work life balance, by working extra hard during their new working week, they may find that their work-life balance takes a hit.

Increased costs

Costs could also increase because some sectors, such as healthcare require staff to work long shifts. Companies in these areas may have to pay more overtime or draft staff in to make any shortfalls.


Examples of a four-day working week in practice

Belgium’s employees recently won the right to work a full week in four days without loss of salary, giving employees the option to choose to work either four or five days.

In Iceland, the country ran a four-day working week trial between 2015 and 2019 and found that the wellbeing of 2,500 workers who took part increased in terms of health and work/life balance. Iceland is now one of the leading countries who uses the four-day working week.

In New Zealand all 81 employees from the New Zealand office of consumer goods ‘Unilever’ are taking part in a one-year trial for a four-day work week.

Is a four-day working week the future of employment?

Since the pandemic and in the wake of the great resignation which saw employees leave their jobs in unprecedented numbers, companies should consider embracing a four-day week to retain and attract the best talent.

Coupled with other employee benefits, like mental health support from Raiys and real-time pay from IGsend – employers must contemplate doing all they can to keep the wellbeing of their staff at the heart of their strategic plans.


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