The idea of a four-day work week has gained traction as a way to considerably improve work-life balance, increase productivity, and reduce stress. Indeed, organisations implementing this model have reported positive outcomes including increased job satisfaction, lower absenteeism, and improved employee morale. In fact, of the 61 companies across the UK who took part in the world’s biggest four-day week work trial, 92% are opting to continue.
However, the impact the four-day work week has had on recruitment and retention has had less attention. Does it really attract top talent and reduce turnover? Or does it instead make organisations less desirable places to work?
How does a four-day work week help with attraction and recruitment?
Adopting a four-day week is a good way for organisations to differentiate themselves in a competitive market. The value of this workplace benefit can help attract top talent and people who would really benefit from the extra day off.
An extra day off throughout the week allows employees to spend more time with friends and family or pursuing personal interests, and demonstrates that the organisation prioritises their people’s quality of life and wellbeing. This could also lead candidates to believe an organisation is more likely to have compelling employee benefits or wellbeing packages.
Similarly to a work-life balance, a four-day work week promotes a more equal workplace. Research has shown that roughly 1.8 million British people are currently out of employment due to childcare responsibilities – 84% of which are women. A reduced working week would mean employees can afford to spend more time managing duties of care and work commitments.
Reduced running costs
A benefit for business and employees alike, adopting a four-day work week cuts costs – especially important during the current climate. For example, money will be saved on electricity, office supplies, food, and commuting costs like petrol or train fares.
How does it help with improving employee retention?
Increases job satisfaction
Results from the UK’s 2022 pilot program for a four-day work week revealed that employee turnover reduced by 57%, and 71% reported lower levels of burnout. Giving employees an extra 24 hours to themselves each week grants sufficient time to recharge batteries ahead of the new working week. This decreases stress levels and helps people become happier with their workload and the job itself, which will also have a positive impact on employee engagement.
Provides a competitive advantage
As well as helping attract new recruits, a four-day work week is a good way for organisations to endear themselves to existing employees. This perk is still rare, and staff may find it difficult to consider work elsewhere since appreciating the freedom of having the extra day off. The results from the 2022 four-day work trial showed that 15% reported no amount of money would make them go back to a five-day work schedule at another organisation, and 73% of workers said that they had greater satisfaction with their time.
Implementing a shorter work week with 100% pay illustrates that an organisation is serious about the welfare of its employees. It shows that they believe life does not start and end with work, and that they understand the importance of time being spent elsewhere.
Allowing employees an extra day off a week shows an organisation trusts its employees to get the work done, even in reduced timeframes. As a result, staff will become more engaged at work and therefore more satisfied in their role, reducing absenteeism and employee turnover.
Challenges and considerations about the four-day work week
A big question around the sustainability of the four-day work week is how it will affect individual stress levels. With reduced hours to meet the same targets, fatigue and stress levels of staff may be compromised. Do the benefits of a four-day weekend truly negate this increased intensity?
Morale may be short-lived
The introduction of a new, shorter work-week policy is exciting, and there’s no denying that initially morale will rise. However, after this “newness” wears off, staff may start to see the four-day work week as something they’re entitled to, rather than a luxury.
Issues may resurface
Reduced time spent working for a living is a great benefit to offer employees. It can help lessen workplace stress, increase motivation, and lower turnover. However, a four-day work week will only reduce the symptoms of these issues and won’t directly address or solve the root causes. So, in-time, issues may still resurface, and organisations may find themselves back at square one.
Is it right for your business?
Unfortunately, not all industries are able to introduce a four-day work week. Some professions require long work hours which would make a shorter working week impractical. And, in some cases, where demand for a certain skill is high and labour is low, fewer working days just wouldn’t work.
It’s also critical for organisations to consider the opinions of its employees from different departments before a four-day week is implemented. Some may have a preference over more traditional working patterns, which could result in resentment if their work arrangements are permanently altered.
Overall, a four-day work week can be an incredibly valuable tool to attract and retain top talent, largely through the way that it promotes a better work-life balance. However, it’s an approach that should undergo thorough thinking before putting into practice due to the complications that could arise and the change in mindsets that may occur.