More companies adopted a four-day week in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic because the shift to distant working spurred a significant rethinking of labor practices, in line with a ballot of senior leaders at 500 UK companies by the University of Reading’s Henley Business School.The survey, an replace to analysis from 2019, confirmed that 21% of respondents adopted a four-day workweek for all workers in 2021, up from 18% in 2019. The majority of respondents (65%) mentioned a four-day workweek is in place for a minimum of a few of their employees, up from 50% who mentioned that in 2019. A four-day workweek is outlined within the report as involving a discount from 5 to 4 workdays for a similar pay or a compressed workweek with the identical hours throughout 4 days as an alternative of 5. Though a four-day workweek has gained recognition, the UK numbers are maybe greater than anticipated; job posting website Indeed informed Computerworld that lower than 1% of job postings on March 11 included the time period “four-day week,” for instance. A Gallup survey of full-time U.S. staff in March 2020 — previous to the pandemic — indicated that solely 5% put in 4 days every week, with the overwhelming majority (84%) working 5 days (and 11% working six days every week).That mentioned, quite a few organizations have adopted or trialled a shorter workweek for employees for the reason that begin of the pandemic, together with companies akin to Atom Bank, Bolt, Buffer, and Kickstarter. And pilot initiatives are beneath means in a number of international locations, together with the US, UK, and Spain.Such initiatives aren’t new, in fact; Microsoft launched a trial at its Japan workplaces in 2019 that resulted in greater productiveness, for instance, whereas the UK’s Wellcome Trust bumped into points round complexity with its personal undertaking the identical yr.A shorter workweek has been talked about for many years, however a shift from the five-day, 40-hour week that has been the usual for over a century has to date failed to realize momentum. What’s behind the latest curiosity within the thought? One purpose is that the widespread, and largely profitable, shift to distant work in the course of the pandemic confirmed the advantages of a extra versatile method to work, mentioned Rita Fontinha, affiliate professor in Strategic Human Resource Management on the University of Reading’s Henley Business School.“The pandemic led to a situation where most firms were forced to implement remote work and this has accelerated previous discussions that we have been having over the last two decades on flexible working,” mentioned Fontinha. “Working from home led to increased trust [between employers and employees] and awareness of other ways of measuring performance that go beyond presenteeism. The pandemic showed that flexibility works.” Report highlights four-day week benefitsThe Henley Business School survey pointed to a number of benefits for companies that carried out a four-day workweek, together with prices financial savings (66%), improved productiveness (64%), higher high quality output from workers (64%), and less-stressed employees (78%).Improved worker wellbeing is linked to enterprise outcomes too, mentioned Jack E. Gold, founder and principal analyst at analysis agency J. Gold Associates.“Keeping employees happy and motivated makes for far more productive employees, no matter what hours they work,” mentioned Gold. “Maximizing employee productivity is a much more important way to gain business value than hours worked.”Another profit, famous by 68% of survey respondents that had adopted a 4 day week, concerned hiring and retention. “People were less likely to take sick leave, people were more productive, and it was easier to attract new staff, and to retain them,” mentioned Fontinha. The so-called Great Resignation can also be seemingly contributing to curiosity in a shorter workweek.“What’s different now than prior to the pandemic is that we’re seeing a temporary spike in the difficulty that firms are having in hiring and retaining workers, and the four-day work week is a relatively easy benefit to extend to help ease the challenge in the short term,” mentioned David Brodeur-Johnson, principal analyst at analysis agency Forrester.A shorter workweek can imply challengesThe survey additionally highlighted a number of challenges round implementing a shorter workweek, although employer considerations have softened in the course of the pandemic. Among corporations that didn’t provide a four-day week, 65% mentioned they have been fearful staffing prices would outweigh any productiveness advantages (although that quantity was down from 80%). The greatest problem cited by employers was assembly buyer calls for (75%), whereas 70% thought a shorter week can be too difficult to handle.Some corporations could discover a change to a four-day week simpler than others, mentioned Fontinha. IT-focused companies usually tend to change, she mentioned, largely as a result of relative ease with which tech employee output could be tracked as compared with different roles. “Areas where we were less likely to see the four-day week were sectors that involve contact with customers, or healthcare, for example,” she mentioned.A shorter workweek can also be extra suited to corporations with a comparatively homogenous workforce when it comes to job roles, she mentioned, that means massive companies with a various workforce could discover a brief workweek difficult to roll out. At the identical time, the smallest corporations may not have the assets to assist the shift, mentioned Fontinha, including that there are steps all companies can take to implement a four-day week, even when they’re extra gradual.“Having this overnight shift to a four-day working week will be hard for smaller firms,” she mentioned. “What we suggest is a progressive reduction in working hours, moving towards a four-day working week by assessing how things are going and how needs are being met, how productive people are.”Even if the advantages outweigh the prices for a lot of, companies ought to take into account their causes for shifting to a four-day week. While a shorter week gives clear advantages to work/life stability and worker wellbeing, Brodeur-Johnson warns towards adopting a four-day week as a shortcut to bettering worker expertise. “[T]he science is clear that what really engages people is being able to make progress in meaningful work every day; to know that they can and are succeeding,” he mentioned.“Employee experience peaks when we can leave work knowing that we made a difference, and had a really good day,” he said. “It also comes from having a supportive manager, a supportive team environment, and feeling recognized and seen uniquely for the work that we do.“All of these things are much harder for businesses to do for their people, because it involves behavior changes, manager development, culture changes, deeper resourcing and more that a four-day work week won’t solve on its own.”
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