Japan is doing it, the Nordics are doing it, Spain is doing it and now Scotland is officially trialling a four day work week. But when you hear the words “four-day work week”, does your mind say “bonus...three-day weekend”? Yes, exciting, however a three-day weekend isn’t the only advantage of a four-day work week for you and your team.
Rhiannon Bates, Founder of Garnet PR has recently implemented the 4-day working week strategy in her business for the benefit of her freelancing team, following in the footsteps of a number of other companies who have benefited from the same decision such as Target Publishing, Microsoft Japan, the National Care Charity as well as UK governments.
Rhiannon said: “I’ve made the decision to make Garnet PR a four-day working week business, working Monday-Thursday. I strongly believe everyone should have the time and space, if they wish, to work on their businesses, invest time and energy into themselves, their self-development and creating their own version of success. As such, ensuring that my team have Fridays available for themselves has become a priority. As a business owner, I wanted to help my team create a life of freedom and flexibility, I believe it is about life work balance and not the other way round. One of the key reasons for me setting up the business in the first place was to give myself more freedom after years of long hours and corporate stress.”
There are many companies who have similar thoughts to the four-day working week and have recognized the benefits to both their teams and their businesses.
Another company taking advantage of the four-day working week is London based lighting company Elektra who after much deliberation took the plunge from a five-day working week to a four in 2019. Director Neil Knowles states that the company as a whole are more mindful when it comes to work ensuring that no time is wasted, and that work production hasn’t dropped but since making the change, his team are a lot happier and this justifies his reasoning behind his decision.
In other countries such as Denmark, their weekly hours are on average, 4 hours less than the UK and according to the Trades Union Congress, percentage wise, productivity is 23.5% higher than in the United Kingdom.
Kim Rutherford, Psychotherapist, has looked into the differences that a four-day working week would have on individuals and has concluded that working five days a week leads to mental and physical exhaustion and stress. Stress means higher cortisol levels within the brain which impacts upon insulin and ultimately increases weight and can cause diabetes.
“A four-day week helps with reducing the potential risks of diabetes; it can start to provide extra leisure and self-care time, which would in turn help to reduce the obesity crisis. It will also help to increase our heart health and brain health, which means that the risks linked to mental and physical health issues caused by increased stress will reduce. It is by no means not the most perfect scenario for how humans should work given our primitive state, but it is probably the happy medium of economic viability, productivity, increased cognitive ability, better work-life balance, and reduced health problems. Overall, it’s just a better, healthier way of working in comparison to the current set up of a five-day week, where we tell ourselves we are working 40 hours but in reality it is closer to 60 hours.”
However, a four-day working week can not only benefit the body, but also the environment in which we live. A study was completed and one positive gain that the country would have as a whole is that a four-day working week would enable the UK to meet its climate targets by reducing the UK’s carbon footprint. “The study found that moving to a four-day week by 2025 would shrink the UK’s emissions by 127m tonnes, a reduction of more than 20% and equivalent to taking the country’s entire private car fleet off the road.” Trials are taking place in New Zealand, Spain and Scotland in order to begin reducing their carbon footprints.
Alongside the many benefits a four-day working week has which are proven to be a success, there are some disadvantages. Not every company has adopted this new concept of working four out of seven days and therefore if you are working with a business who work a five-day week, there could be potential risks to the relationship. Customer relationships could also be harmful, “...the four-day workweek doesn’t work for every business and certainly not for every employee. If your customers expect to find people who are available five days a week, then an employee who is unavailable every Friday could cause problems.” . Rhiannon has identified a simple route around this: “No-one ever said a 4-day week has to be Mon-Thurs. That’s what works in my business, however it’s different for everyone. I would recommend staggering the team so there is availability each day of the week. Talk with your team and your clients to see what model will work best. All our clients have been incredibly receptive and supportive around this concept, and it has not stalled business at all, in fact the business has grown since the new way of working has been implemented.”
Rhiannon concluded with: “Changing our ‘normal’ working hours has been a really good way to show my team that I value not only the work that they are achieving within the Monday-Thursday time frame but that I also value that they do have a life outside of work and I trust them to get the work done. They don’t just have to be 'present' for the sake of it. Flexible working and more freedom is the way forward. The wellbeing and happiness of my team has always been paramount, and the move to a four-day work week is another way for me to ensure that they are being prioritised, maintaining a better work/life balance and having the time they need to develop themselves.”