Imagine starting each week safe in the knowledge you were getting a day off.
Pretty sweet, huh? But now people are starting to treat it is a potential reality.
Increasingly discussed as part of the changes brought about by Covid 19, a four day working week would be one of the biggest changes in labour relations since the invention of the weekend.
So, where are we currently with the threat of Covid 19 and what is the likelihood of it becoming a de-facto institution in the years ahead?
Where are we now?
The fact that the idea of a four-day week is even being entertained right now is a significant step in itself.
Part of the Covid 19 revolution, industries and businesses throughout the UK and further afield have been shaken to their core by disruptions caused by the virus. Meetings are occurring through Zoom, projects managed through collaboration software, and almost every office worker in the country has crafted their own working space in their own home.
In this drive to make the best of things, institutions that would be loathe to lose a working day (and let’s be honest, it’s all of them) are being increasingly pressured to adapt and consider a four-day week as a flexible half measure that could take the pressure off companies having to pay furlough rates, make mass redundancies and more.
With the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer advocating for a four day week in a direct response to the pandemic. And with options narrowing and the need for realpolitik becoming more pressing every day, the fact that it hasn’t been dismissed outright has left many people wondering what will happen next.
What does it mean?
Simply put, a four-day working week will mean completing the same amount of work with one less day in the business calendar each week. While many may see this as businesses shooting themselves in the foot, the statistics tell a different story.
The global economy is famously facing a Productivity Slowdown that shows an active downward trend within the G7 since the post-war period of the 1970’s. While the trend is not accounted for, the simple fact remains – people are arguably working longer than ever before, and we’re left with little to show for it.
Some proponents believe that opting for a four day week will be a shock to the system and allow for a shorter working time to help restructure the modern economy and help equally share work and increase overall quality of life for individuals from a range of sectors.
What are the benefits?
Aside from an extra day to ourselves, some of the projected benefits of a reduced working week potentially include-
Bolstered Productivity: Many studies have actually shown that overworked employees are less productive than those that keep to normal hours. Keeping reduced hours can help focus employee motivation – either by limiting the likelihood of Parkinson’s Law or by laser-focusing on impending deadlines.
Improved Motivation: With an extra day to rest or pursue personal interests, employees will come back to work revitalised, rested, and ready to rock and roll. This can be essential for physically and mentally challenging jobs, acting as a powerful asset across the board.
Improved Equality: A four-day week would help make professional and personal responsibilities more manageable, helping to actively tackle the gender pay gap and taking some of the significant pressure present when raising a family.
What will the future look like?
As with anything involving Covid, it can feel impossible if not foolish to make definitive predictions about what the future is going to mean for the industry.
Any change to our working practice will be significant and have to be heavily trialled, with any sweeping change carrying significant risk for the economy. Even if it were the case that a four day week was actively proposed and adopted, the change would likely take years if not decades to be fully established and culturally normalised.
However, there is arguably no better time than during a period of disruption to trial something new. And if anything good comes out of Covid 19, it would truly be fitting for it to be something that brings us joy and renewed purpose when we’ve been struggling with both over the last few months.