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The 4 Day Work Week – Should Employers Consider It? - Cobalt HR

August 4, 20220

The 4 Day Work Week – Should Employers Consider It?

Working four days a week instead of five sounds like a dream, right? Well, there can be pros and cons to implementing the four-day week and it may not suit everyone. Recently you may have seen more news articles on the topic in the UK as a pilot scheme began in June 2022.

How does it work?

Essentially, employees work the same number of hours as before but condensed into four days giving them an extra day of freedom and no change in pay. The goal is to give workers a better work-life balance.

The Benefits

Iceland Case Study

While the four-day week isn’t widespread in the UK yet, other countries have seen success with it. Reyjavík City Council and Iceland’s national government trialled the policy from 2015 to 2019 with approximately 2500 office, social service, preschools and hospital workers and they found that productivity either remained the same or improved in the majority of workplaces.

As a result of the trial 86% of Iceland’s workforce now either already work shorter hours for the same pay or will do soon (as of 2021). Workers reported feeling less stressed and were consequently less at risk of burnout and also that their work-life balance improved.

Other benefits include:

        • More leisure time, this can benefit all employees.
        • Parents, guardians and carers can save money on things like childcare.
        • It can result in improved well-being.
        • According to research by Gallup, well-being increases and burnout is reduced.
        • Employees are less likely to take sick leave.
        • Employees are more motivated.
        • Reduced commuting costs.
        • Reduced carbon footprint.
        • Increased loyalty and commitment.
        • Possibility of attracting more talented individuals.
The Challenges

Yarno case study

Yarno belongs to the knowledge sector. When the founders created Yarno in 2016, they wanted to see if they could make a four-day week work for a startup company. One of the founders had worked a four-day week previously and had loved it.

However, they found that some people weren’t able to take Fridays off as planned due to meetings with clients etc. and 2 years later, the situation remained that some employees could take Fridays off while others couldn’t. This resulted in fears that the “inconsistency” would result in bitterness. After concluding that it didn’t work for them, they returned to the 5-day week, while trying to remain flexible.

As you can tell from the latter case study, while there are some great benefits there are also some challenges with the four-day week that you’ll need to consider:

        • A four-day working week can mean that you may need to be less flexible with staff about appointments etc. during working hours. This can be more difficult for some staff, especially careers or employees with health conditions.
        • Some companies may not be able to condense tasks such as meetings into four days rather than five.
        • Some employees would rather work 5 days a week so that they can apply for more flexible hours.
        • There is a risk that it could increase stress as employees feel pressured to get their usual workload done in less time.
        • Longer working days.
        • Depending on the role of each employee, some may need to be on call for emergencies which can prevent them from relaxing on their day off.
        • Some employees may feel more disconnected from the company.
        • If staff feel pressured to get their work done in less time, it may create a more hostile environment in the office since everyone is more stressed and less collaborative.
        • Issues with customer satisfaction.

While there are challenges there are also solutions. Firstly, job sharing can be a great way to help combat pressure surrounding workloads. You could divide the rota so that when one person has a day off there is always one other person in that can pick up their work.

Additionally, consider doing a survey before implementing the policy in order to gather data concerning how the staff feel about the policy.

Problems with customer satisfaction can be managed by ensuring that there are still staff in over five days. You could also resolve issues with customer satisfaction using AI such as chatbots.

So, should employers consider the four-day week?

The answer for many could be yes. However, this will depend on the type of organisation, how many employees it has, the demands of its customers or clients, and the stage of development that the organisation is at. It will be interesting to see how well the pilot scheme goes and whether the four-day week could be a common policy in the future.

Please reach out to us if you would like to know more and one of our expert HR advisors would be happy to help!

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Lachy Gray, ‘How our 4-day word week turned into a 2 year failed experiment’ [Accessed 6 July 2022]

BBC News, ‘Four-day week ‘an overwhelming success’ in Iceland’ (2021) [Accessed 18 May 2022]

Alex Christian, ‘The realities of the four-day workweek’ (2022) [Accessed 16 May 2022]

Mel Green, ‘Can the four-day week solve work-life balance’ (2022) [Accessed 16 May 2022]

Change, ‘The Pros and Cons of a 4 Day Working Week’ [Accessed 16 May 2022]

Katy Adalar, ‘CIPD in the news: cutting through the hype on four-day weeks and unlimited leave’ (2021) [Accessed 16 May 2022]

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