Four-day week: would it work for your business?

Kate Palmer - HR Advice and Consultancy Director

July 05 2022

Last month saw the launch of the UK’s four-day working week trial.

60 companies and over 3,000 workers are taking part in the six-month pilot scheme to determine whether four days of work a week is enough to satisfy demand…

Some companies have already adopted the four-day working week model, whilst others are on the fence. If you’re curious about whether it might work for you, here are five questions to ask yourself…

1. What’s your goal?

Think about what the main selling point of a four-day work week is for you. Do you want to increase productivity? Boost staff retention? Provide more flexibility?

Many workers are striving for a better work-life balance and a four-day week can help give them that extra time to spend on activities outside of work. Overall, having that downtime and flexibility is likely to keep your staff happy and encourage them to stay with your company for the long term.

However, it’s important to think about your specific business needs and how a four-day work week could support that. So, that’s why you need to consider logistics like…

2. Is a four-day week suitable for your industry?

Some industries may be better suited to a four-day work week than others.

You might need to be available seven days a week, for instance, if you’re in the emergency services or hospitality. Every business is different, so it’s important to think about whether it would be feasible for you to lose a working day.

You might need to have staff on hand all week to help with clients. This doesn’t mean a four-day week couldn’t work, but you might need to reconsider how you might structure it…

3. How will you structure your four-day week?

The way you structure your four-day week might need to be different from other companies. Whilst some businesses may have no issue with closing up for three days, you might not be in a position to do so.

In that case, it might be a good idea to allow staff to choose which four days they’d like to work. That way, you can keep the company open all week, but staff can rotate shifts.

You should also ask yourself whether you plan to offer a four-day working week to selected workers or if this will be a company-wide change.

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4. Will you condense working hours?

Next, you’ll need to consider whether you intend to condense your working hours - i.e. you work four 10-hour days, instead of five 8-hour days.

This way, you don’t end up losing any hours in the week. This might be ideal for some workers, but others might find longer hours exhausting even with three days off.

You also have to be aware that longer working hours might not work for staff who have childcare responsibilities.

Condensed workdays sound like a good idea in theory but they can put staff under a lot of stress, which may affect their productivity and morale.

One of the main reasons why there are calls to have a four-day week is that it enables staff to have more time outside of work. But this won’t be the case if staff feel they need to work during the evenings or weekends to make up for losing a day.

It might be worth opening the idea up to your workers to see what the overall consensus is.

5. Can you change your staff contracts?

If you go ahead with a four-day work week, this would involve changing your worker’s contracted hours. It may also involve adjusting or reorganising their responsibilities. So, you’d need to update these changes in their contract or draft up a new one.

To change your worker’s contract, you’ll need to get written consent.

This may go smoothly but may not if your staff aren’t happy with the idea and you can’t reach an agreement. In which case, you may have to provide notice on their current contract. This gives them a choice. They can either agree to their contract or you part ways professionally.

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Don’t worry, your HR advisers are available seven days a week…

A four-day work week is a big change and its effectiveness depends on your unique business needs. Don’t worry about figuring this out alone. With Peninsula, you can stay safe and successful 24/7 with expert HR advice from industry-leading professionals.

Whether you need reassurance that you’re making the best decision for you, or you want to back up your words with watertight policies, take advantage of unlimited HR support.

Not yet a Peninsula client? To get the answer to any HR query, give us a ring on 0800 028 2420 for a complimentary call with an expert adviser today.

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