Four-day week 'to become norm in UK'

A third of companies believe a four-day working week will become the norm for most UK workers within the next decade, boosting productivity and employee wellbeing, according to a new survey.

A long weekend calendar to illustrate the concept of four-day work week introduced by the UK and European companies
But the survey of 2,000 employers, conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), also found that only ten per cent had actually reduced working hours without reducing pay over the past five years.
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Fewer hours and the same pay

Two-thirds of companies said that a shift to a four-day week without cutting pay would depend on their organisations improving efficiency and the adoption of technology. The survey comes at a time when 73 UK firms with more than 3,000 employees are taking part in a six-month trial of the four-day week where staff get 100 per cent pay for working 80 per cent of their normal hours.Launched in June this year, the trial offers employers and workers access to workshops, mentoring, networking, wellbeing and productivity assessments. At the halfway point of the trial, a survey of 41 of the firms involved suggested 86 per cent plan to retain a four-day week when the trial ends in December. Some 95 per cent reported that productivity had remained the same or had improved since the trial began.

Welcome wellbeing boost for employees

The CIPD survey also found that the main drivers among employers adopting a shorter working week were to increase employee wellbeing, or to help with recruitment and retention. From a purely business perspective, decreased demand for products or services had also resulted in some firms cutting working hours.Jonathan Boys, Senior Labour Market Economist at the CIPD, said: “The rationale behind the move for the four-day week is a positive one: to give people more leisure time and improve their wellbeing while increasing their productivity to compensate.“The current trials are an attempt to plug the evidence gap, help provide insights for other employers that would like to make the shift to the four-day week and make a stronger case for the benefits."Some businesses will find this easier than others depending on their size and sector. The major sticking point is the need to increase productivity by a whopping 25 per cent to make up for the output lost from fewer days of work."This point came through in our findings with a majority of employers saying they would need to work smarter and adopt new technology in order to reduce working hours without cutting pay."

Redefining workplace rules

In the national trial of the four-day week, Charity Bank has become the first UK bank to reduce its work week from a standard 35 hours to 28 hours for the same pay and benefits.The bank said in a statement that its participation in the pilot project was “based on a whole host of positive benefits that arise from shortening the work week that will improve the welfare of our co-workers in the first instance, and our customers by extension”.It added: "The 20th-century concept of a five-day working week is no longer the best fit for 21st-century business. We firmly believe that a four-day week, with no change to salary or benefits, will create a happier workforce and will have an equally positive impact on business productivity, customer experience and our social mission.”Recent research commissioned by NatWest found that three-quarters of UK recruiters believed a four-day week would be the norm by 2030.

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