Firms across the UK have begun the biggest experiment of four-day working weeks without a decrease in pay.
Staff will need clear guidance and support to prevent burnout throughout the four-day working week trial, warns global provider of talent outsourcing and advisory services, AMS.
Employees will need assistance to adjust to the change to ensure individuals aren’t working additional hours over the agreed working days in order complete their required work in four days.
Working additional hours
Responding to the news today that a range of employers have introduced reduced working weeks without a loss of pay, AMS has warned that employees will need assistance to adjust to the change to ensure individuals aren’t working additional hours over the agreed working days in order complete their required work in four days.
“The flexibility of being able to work four days a week will certainly help create a better work-life balance for some workforces. However, this concept is new to individuals and businesses alike. The key hurdle to overcome if this is to be successful is the careful management of workloads. If staff are cutting their hours by 20 percent but their workload and delivery expectations remain the same, employers could face a scenario where people are struggling to meet expectations and failing to take breaks or working overtime during the new working week in order to gain an additional day off,” says Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at AMS, Paul Modley.
Flexibility is key
Unispace has urged employers to ensure flexibility in working styles isn’t reduced as a result of the four-day week trial begins.
“This trial of a new working style is certainly laudable in the new world of work, but as a CEO I would be wary of pushing one set up for many in an environment where flexibility is key. Just as we’ve learnt that the five-day work week isn’t viable for all, so too could the four-day week be for some. If there’s one crucial takeaway from the pandemic, it’s that taking a catch-all approach to working style mandates isn’t always the best option. People from different demographics and home lives will have different preferences and if the right balance in working styles is to be achieved there needs to be flexibility, rather than broadly dictating requirements for all,” says CEO EMEA at Unispace, Lawrence Mohiuddine.
Mr Mohiuddine adds:
“For some, the option to get out to the office five days a week is appealing and it’s important that this isn’t overlooked. In fact, in a study of 3,000 office workers and 2,750 employers across Europe we found that 65 percent of those living with a spouse or partner and children preferred to be in the office, while 59 percent of those living alone also had a desire to be in the workplace rather than at home.
“While there will be many individuals who value the extra time they get from home, for others, the option to work amongst their peers for a full week in order to progress their careers is also still desired and they shouldn’t be disadvantaged by this change.
“As a case in point, our same study showed that the younger generation of the workforce would be happier to return to the office if they had access to training and development programmes (cited by 80% of respondents aged 18-35). A further 81 percent of those living with housemates and 75 percent of those living with a spouse/partner and children also cited a desire to return if they could gain access to training.”
“With the right communication and careful management, a four-day week can work, but without appropriate implementation, employees can become disengaged with a brand or even feel disgruntled with the forced reduction of days. In an economy where talent shortages are rife and retaining staff is a critical business priority, it’s important to ensure that any changes to work set ups are delivering against the needs of individuals as well as the company,” adds Mr Modley.
Similarly, Mr Mohiuddine suggests that the “future workforce is flexible and while four-day working weeks is an innovative approach that should be explored, the voice of all talent pools needs to be listened to in today’s talent-short market. No single approach to working set ups will meet the needs of everyone, but a flexible style that puts the power in the hands of today’s talent will be more desirable for a greater range of individuals.”
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview. With a master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.