Four day week – the way forward or a step in the wrong direction?

New year, new mindset. Are you planning any major changes in 2024? According to stats from Forbes Advisor, 24% of those who set a New Year’s resolution this year have decided they want to reduce their stress levels. Additionally, 22% are hoping to enhance their emotional wellbeing, and 20% want to make more time for hobbies in 2024. Coming in lower, 18% of individuals surveyed want to improve their career goals this year[1].

A growing number of individuals are continuing to centre their lives around improving mental health, reducing stress, and redressing their work/life balance rather than focusing solely on climbing the corporate ladder. So much so, that separate studies found that half (54%) of Brits would accept a lower-paid job for a better work-life balance.[2]

According to The 4 Day Week – an organisation campaigning for a four-day, 32 hour working week with no loss of pay – the UK is one of the least productive economies in Europe, yet works some of the longest hours. Perhaps it’s time for the (more than) century-old five-day week to have a long overdue reassessment?

Businesses are catching on to the ‘work to live, don’t live to work’ mindset. Initial data from a four-day working week pilot in the UK (February 2023) shows that the change was positive for both employees and companies:

        71% of employees reported lower levels of burnout over the six-month trial period.

        Companies’ revenue remained the same, with a 1.4% average increase.

        Job retention improved, with a 57% decline in the likelihood that an employee would quit.

        There was a 65% reduction in the number of sick days.

        Employees reported improvements in mental and physical health, and work-life balance, with overall levels of anxiety, fatigue, and sleep issues decreasing.

Campaigners believe that such a change could also lead to wider, positive benefits, such as a lower carbon footprint from reduced commutes, a more equal share of unpaid work (such as caring roles), which were traditionally ascribed to women, and the ability to make more environmentally positive choices thanks to increased free time.

With clear benefits for both employees and businesses, what’s holding companies back from jumping into a four-day week?

Let’s remember that the four-day working week might not work in all industries – particularly those that require round-the-clock staffing, and would therefore incur additional staffing costs to cover all hours. Additionally, most businesses aren’t set up to successfully jump into a four-day week. Making it work requires careful planning and thorough consultations with staff and stakeholders beforehand.

Striking a healthy balance between work and play is extremely important to us at Dialogue, which is why we’re experimenting with the idea and have also tested alternatives like a nine day fortnight and monthly ‘bonus days off’. We’re not quite there yet, as we’re still in the process of adapting our business model and tech capabilities to make it work for both our team and clients. We cannot allow a change in our way of working to have a negative knock-on effect for our clients or indeed our translators (through added pressure from tightened deadlines).

But we’re up for the challenge, and being a small team means mental wellbeing and work balance is even more important. We think that with meticulous forward planning and crystal-clear communication, flexibility is doable. By investing time and effort into getting it right, we hope to ensure any future changes in our way of working are the least disruptive as possible for everyone, while still maintaining the best product and services for our clients, and a healthy and motivating balance for our brilliant team.

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