Looking at 2019 and the Four Day Week
A lot of buzz surrounding the four day week has already been generated throughout 2018 and, as we enter the fourth quarter of the year, could more companies be starting to adapt their working strategies for 2019? The answer will depend largely on how companies view their business models going forward and whether accommodating a shorter working week would be something that fits with their longer-term strategy. Although there is significant evidence to show that longer working hours do not necessarily produce efficiency or quality of output, some service and manufacturing services may find it difficult to incorporate days with lower or zero staff days.
A number of big success stories
The highly publicised example of the New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian successfully improving its employee`s perspective of work-life balance by 24% is anticipated to result in more productive office time. In this experiment, the employees maintained their salaries but reduced their working week to four days. As a trusts and estate management company, it has successfully been able to work with the flexibility of shutting the office for an additional day per week and minimising the impact of this on its clients.
Clearly some sectors are more highly suited to a four day working week and incorporating other methods of flexible working to motivate and reward their staff. Those who support the view that a happier and more balanced workforce are more likely to work more effectively suggest that this is just the start of a future revolution in the way we look at our working lives. In turn this can allow companies to reduce overhead costs whilst maintaining or improving output which becomes hugely attractive for larger companies. Smaller companies and start-ups see employee flexibility as key to balancing workload, not only maximizing the efficiency of the company but also in attracting young talent looking for dynamic environments to exhibit their skills.
Potential downside to a shorter working week
Those not convinced by the excitement surrounding a four day week highlight the negative social impact of reduced workforces and the preference for some companies to only retain the most efficient workers. Whilst a reduction in workforce is not a necessarily a given, if salaries are maintained with a time reduction of 20%, companies could be seen to try to compensate this by employing fewer workers. This in turn could create higher-pressure working environments and eradicate any lifestyle benefits that the shorter week may provide.
Social benefits and reduction of the gender pay gap
These social fears can be considered as premature and perhaps an overly negative view of how flexible working can provide additional benefits such as a positive impact on the gender pay gap. Following years of, largely unsuccessful, attempts to reduce the institutionalization of gender as a discriminatory, this movement to flexibility may directly help to eradicate this. Given that a large basis of the gender pay gap is linked to employment selection and a discrimination against the balance of work and family life, the four day week provides an opportunity for companies to neutralize this institutionalised bias.
Four day working can certainly be successfully implemented across a wide range of companies and the benefit for both employees and employers has proven to be impressive. Although it may not suit all sectors and working environments, the move towards a more flexible working schedule and the debate that it creates, is becoming increasingly influential as part of many company strategies.