The four day week.
The UK’s Trade Union Council (TUC) is hoping to change the future of work. They want to encourage the move to “a four-day working week this century, with decent pay for everyone”.
Let’s take it back to the start of the industrial revolution where companies were trying to maximise the output of their machines by getting workers to come in to work round the clock. People worked 10-16 hour shifts until this was no longer sustainable.
A man ahead of his time, Robert Owen, created his campaign in 1817 –
Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.
100 years later, the Ford Motor Company adopted this campaign and found an increase in productivity from their employees and profit. It wasn’t long until the 8-hour day was the new norm. Fast forward another 100 years and we are still stuck in this culture of work-every-hour-of-the-day-to-prove-yourself.
Today, there is no need for employees to come into work to operate machines. There is also continuous technological advances allowing people to work almost anywhere. We are going along with the 9-5 tradition just because that’s what we are used to. But why? It’s time for a new and updated Robert Owen campaign to improve the health and wellbeing of the new age of employees.
What it means for your employees
Globalisation and technological advances mean modern work tasks can (and sometimes need to) be done outside of the standard 9-5. Today, employees are still expected and/or feel pressured to do these office hours as well as take meetings across time zones. The average working week for Brits remains 43.6 hours, or 8 hours and 40 minutes per day due to this culture of presenteeism. Needless to say, this affects employee stress levels associated with mental and physical health problems. Longer working hours link to an increased risk of strokes, heart disease, and obesity.
Having said this, a report from Perpetual Guardian’s 4-day work week trial highlight some employees frustrations at trying to fit their workload into a 4 day week; increasing feelings of stress and pressure.
Other employees in this same trial report an increase in motivation. They feel empowered by being trusted by their employer to manage their own workload; increasing their focus and therefore becoming more efficient when completing their tasks. This in turn creates a positive feeling towards their organisation so these employees are happy to go above and beyond expectations.
So then, is the 4-day week the best option for employees in today’s working world? Perhaps we can take the 4-day work week one step further and create a flexible timetable. This can then be applied to people’s different working preferences, styles and tasks.
But how will this affect the company and more importantly, the customers?
What it means for your customers
Ultimately, customers are key to success. To keep customers happy, companies need to be able to provide their services as and when the customers need it. The level of service provided will decipher when your employees need to be present.
Development of technology allows customers to get in contact through many different touch points and get answers from automated messages. Whilst there is sometimes a backlash from customers against automated messages, this technology is becoming increasingly more accurate through the use of AI. Technology such as AI will allow changes to be made to the future roles of employees. This could potentially give flexibility to the times employees need to be present.
What it means for your company
Marrying up the pros and cons of a four day week for employees and customers will help to see how this could affect your company as a whole. Happy employees reward the company by increasing productivity, lowering turnover rates, reducing sick leave, and boosting their emotional wellbeing. Aiming to balance this with keeping and/or improving the current service levels offered to your customers will improve the reputation of your brand. Your company could be seen as a leader in the industry, just like Ford was 100 years ago.
The key here may not be as simple as changing to a four day week but to be flexible. As no company is the same, applying a 4-day week across the board is not the solution. Being flexible in order to appeal to your employees and keep them happy, as well as balancing this with the needs of your customers, will provide the best outcome. Creating flexibility is the one problem our workplace specialist, Bertie, would solve if he could (read the full interview here).
Are you thinking of providing flexible hours for employees in your workplace or do you already? We’d love to hear about it! What are your company needs and what are you proposing? Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Come back next week to see how to make a smooth transition from a 5 day week to a flexible working week.