May was rather an odd month wasn’t it? I didn’t know whether I was coming or going for most of it. 3 bank holidays meant 4 working day weeks and a lot of confusion. Is it Monday, Tuesday, Sunday? Genuinely no clue. I have spent most of the day torturing my poor husband by asking him repeatedly if he’s working tomorrow. He sighs deeply and replies that he is. I then pause…think…and reply, “Oh that’s a shame that we can’t do anything on the last day of half term.” He blinks, sighs again and then through gritted teeth responds, “It’s not the last day. Tomorrow is Saturday, NOT SUNDAY.” We have been trapped in this perpetual loop for hours now and I still cannot fathom that today is Friday. It just won’t compute for me. We have been relaxing in a beautiful park next to a lake and that just does not feel like a Friday to me. Where are my ominous deadlines and the impending sense of doom? (Waiting till Monday clearly…)
I have seen countless jokes on social media about the whole of the U.K lamenting a return to our 5 day working pattern. The audacity of being asked to work Monday – Friday when we have been wallowing in luxurious 3 day weekends. It doesn’t seem right! Moreover, there are many countries who have either adopted or are trialling a pilot scheme for the four day working week. These include Iceland, United Arab Emirates, Australia and South Africa. Japan have gone one step further and in their 2021 economic policy recommended that all employees should only work 4 days a week rather than the previous 5. In Belgium, workers have the right to switch to a 4 day week if they desire it and in the Netherlands, all citizens can ask for part time hours unless there is a “substantial reason” why their employer cannot honour it.
The 4 Day Week Global Organisation are the brains behind many of these trials. From the idea’s conception in New Zealand, sprang a plethora of interest from around the world once they had published their pilot’s ground-breaking report. Soon, companies from all over the world were asking them to facilitate and assist the implementation of their own reduced hours pilot scheme. The range and scope of 4 Day Week continues to grow exponentially and the results, no matter where in the world they range from, all point in the same direction – it’s a good idea.
Statistics reported include:
78% of employees with a 4 day week are happier and less stressed.
63% of businesses found it easier to attract and retain talent with a 4 day week. (4dayweek.com)
However, critics of shortening the working week argue that this can only work in the private sector. How on earth can we ask our civil servants to take a whole day off when most groups are already underfunded and understaffed as it is? Hospital staff work gruelling hours and shift patterns, and as a teacher, I can only imagine the horror and resentment I would feel at watching the rest of the country hit snooze on Friday, while the rest of us servants continue to drag ourselves out of bed and ‘serve.’ So, what do these studies say about key workers? How does it ‘work’ for them? Well, one obvious solution would be for children to have a shorter week too! Schools have experimented with Friday afternoons off in Europe, or flexible learning for older students. Another idea is to compress hours, rather than award a complete day. This approach would make timetabling complex shift patterns more manageable.
But could it work for us? Well, there were over 60 U.K based companies who partnered with 4 Day Week Global and trialled a four day week, or a compressed working week, in 2022. 6000 employees either worked less hours overall, or only for 4 days, between June and December. Maybe you were one of them! (I certainly wasn’t.) There were even some civil servants included in the pilot schemes. South Cambridgeshire Council reported their 4 day week trial as “overwhelmingly positive” and even extended it for another 12 months due to its resounding success – and probably because 88.5% of their staff said they wanted the trial to continue! Importantly, their feedback showed that individual job performances and positive outcomes were not negatively affected by the ‘lost’ day.
Here are some highlights from the 4 Day Week, U.K report (published Feb 2023)
Being busy doesn’t make you stressed, being out of control is what makes you stressed.
This statement from the report leapt out and hit me between the eyes. Yes! Who wants to be bored at work with nothing to do? A sense of being ‘busy’ is not what is wearing us down and burning us out. Stress is feeling out of control with ‘too much’ on your plate. We can be busy at work but not stressed and according to this report, a 4 day week can help that transition from stress to contentedly busy.
I’m absolutely ready to go for it on the 4 days I’m in!
I completely empathise with this comment. The recharge and rest required to tackle 30 glorious little people every day is monumental I can assure you. With a Monday (or any day for that matter) to rest and regroup, I am certainly more upbeat, determined and motivated going into work the next day, which can only impact the children in my care in a positive way.
For 15%, (of employees) there was no amount of money that could take them back from the four day week.
These are my people right here. A pay rise you say? To work more hours and become a shell of my former self? No, thank you. I’m good. Let’s never trade our wellbeing for a few more pounds in the purse.
The benefits of a shorter working week for no reduction in pay are now both well-known and well-evidenced: employees are happier and healthier, and the organisations they work for are often more productive, more efficient, and retain their staff more readily.
My hope is that one day you might experience this magical concept for yourself; a never-ending bank holiday weekend.