Pierre-Lindmark explores the potential dangers of the four-day week, and outlines what employers need to be aware of if they implement it.

The combined pressures created by Covid-19, the cost of living and the Great Resignation are having a profound impact on the working life, and employers are starting to be aware of the need to respond to changing employee demands.

These current challenges are increasing conversations about how to improve life quality, which by default means conversations about wellbeing at work. Many employees are seeking more flexibility and autonomy – but is the four-day working week the best solution?


The trial

It’s been some years since the start of a discussion about the four-day working week, with both governments and corporations showing interest in this idea. Recently, 3,300 workers at 70 UK companies started the world’s biggest trial of the four-day working week pattern. The aim of this trial is to measure the impact on productivity and the wellbeing of the workers in hope to reduce burnout and increase engagement.

Many people think that implementing the four-day week will bring benefits for employees and their work-life balance. The idea is certainly gaining traction, as a recent study from the job advert company CV-Library reported that since the UK trial began last Monday, four-day week positions have increased around 90 percent.


A rise in stress levels

However, a broad policy like this one might not fit all people. In fact, one less day of work a week could cause a rise in stress levels for those who feel that they have less time but the same workload. This would negatively impact the work/life balance for many, making responsible professionals feel the need to finish tasks on their days off. Just like every change to working practises, it will suit some and alienate others. In short, it isn’t the cure to all pains.

Any structural work change needs to be tailored to the singularity and individual preference of every employee. The decisions that are made to improve employees’ wellbeing require a profound analysis of the staff’s unique needs, the company itself, and a strategy to manage the transition. There are many ways of doing so when there’s motivation and the tools in place.

Companies must be very careful and walk away from implementing drastic changes that may not fit their industries and the people that work in them. That’s why it is very important that before implementing any change to working practices like this, organisations consult employees and take their views on board. Work pattern changes need to be an ongoing conversation between management and employees if they want them to be meaningful and effective. As we have seen with working remotely, many companies that got rid of their office presence are now having to renegotiate working conditions. Just because the idea of a four-day working week is gaining more traction, companies should not make blind decisions.


Employee wellbeing should be a top concern

If the real concern is employee wellbeing, organisations must consult their people and take their views as valuable insights. The pandemic and The Great Resignation showed how vulnerable employment relationships are, with many people forced to stop working and others rethinking their work and life priorities.
Today, the stakes haven’t been higher when dealing with a big cost of living crisis.

It is imperative that employers make their staff feel valued, unique, secure, and that their voices are heard. Leaders must leave behind outdated working practices and evaluate their capacities to offer better work conditions. A tailored and flexible experience is a good way to ensure meeting individual needs and adapt to the current challenges.

The new workforce is determined and ambitious. People are raising their voices to ask for solutions to couple work to their personal values and lifestyles. They want fast solutions to their demands, and it is the employer’s responsibility to manage the changes that adapt to their staff needs.

Indeed, the four-day working week could be a positive change for some. But it is crystal clear that the same hat won’t fit all. Such a blanket policy would not bring solutions to most of the fundamental challenges that workers are facing now, and it could even make them bigger. Big work culture changes need to be implemented after giving those affected a voice. Employers must begin by having two-way conversations with their workforce and implementing the change workers actually want to see.

Pierre launched Winningtemp with the vision to help every employee’s voice be heard in business. A serial entrepreneur with an engineering background, Pierre prides himself on combining a deep understanding of tech and business with a passion for employee wellbeing. He retains eighteen years of experience in HR tech with three Software as a Service (SaaS) companies. His first company, Foxshare, was a corporate learning management system that is now part of the National Encyclopedia in Sweden. Following the successful sale of Foxshare, Pierre decided to investigate the world of employee wellbeing, which led him to found Winningtemp. Today, the company is a resounding success in its native Sweden and has a growing footprint in The Nordics and the UK – all of which relied on Pierre’s leadership.