Are you ready for a four day working week?

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By Oliviah Rix-Taylor

on Thursday 13 September 2018

relaxing at work

Do you support a four day working week?

The four day working week has been trailed across the globe with New Zealand and Sweden notoriously providing mixed results – and now there are calls for the UK to axe a working day.

The UK’s Trade Union Council (TUC) has called for a blanket four day week across the UK to share the benefits of technological advances with workers as well as business owners.

It sounds very fair, after all, why should the technology we worked hard to make then go on to axe our jobs and fatten the wallet of a very small minority of company CEO’s and boards.

We should all share in the wealth that technology can bring - employers and employees alike.

But are we ready for a four day working week, and would it actually work across all industries?

What about industries that are bound by tight deadlines? Or companies that are in hard competition with each other? Cutting out a full working day could actually put more stress on employees if targets are not met.

But the overwhelming reports of success are hard to ignore and perhaps the real answer lies in that old adage; work smarter not harder.

New Zealand firm success

The New Zealand firm Perpetual Guardian trailed the four day working week and found that their employees became more committed and happier in the work place. Instead of seeing a drop in productivity they said that employees became more innovative and took the initiative more often. They did this by almost eliminating their non-work internet usage and automating manual processes.

Sweden's 6 hour working day

One fifth of Sweden’s population is over sixty five, which is why the six hour working day was trailed in care homes. Employees reported enjoying more daylight hours, having more family time and being ill less often. As well as nurses taking fewer sick leave, patient care improved - but the move was strongly opposed by those concerned about the costs (no prizes for guessing who those individuals might be).

Are we ready for it?

The idea is an admirable one – reduce worker stress and improve happiness so that you are able to work hard and enjoy life at the same time. However, it is slightly idealistic and many industries don’t yet have the technology to make it work.

Take the construction industry for example. It’s hard to picture machinery operating itself on site on a Friday whilst tradesmen have the day off. Completion dates would slip further and further into the hazy future and the stress would start to be felt by all.

Perhaps in the future it would be wholly appropriate but for now we may not be far enough removed from the industrial revolution to reap the benefits just yet. In the meantime however, flexible working hours could provide a much better alternative, allowing employees to choose their working hours and allowing them the flexibility to attend to life matters without the stress of having to fake a sick day or call your manager and beg for a few hours off.

At the end of the working day, workplace wellbeing is vital to productivity, no matter what angle you try to look at it and stress, anxiety and depression are becoming major threats to productivity.

Employers owe a duty of care to their employees, especially in the realms of physical safety with stringent health and safety laws to protect staff from workplace accidents.

But there doesn’t yet seem to be much in the way to protect staff from workplace psychological harm and with the rise in transparency in mental health, perhaps employers need to start paying attention.

We may not be ready for the four day working week just yet, but hopefully, we can work towards it, five days at a time.