4 Day Working - Is it Realistic?
Updated: Dec 14, 2019
Asking your staff to work 4 days each week and having 3 day weekends, every weekend IS realistic, but requires a lot of preparation, a lot more team working and is facilitated enormously by 21st Century technology.
In 2000, the French Government mandated a maximum 35 hour week, which the Labour party want to do in the UK; But this is like putting the cart before the horse as there is then no incentive for the staff to collaborate to work Smarter not Harder to deliver the same amount of work and be 25% more productive.
If a company's management initiates a trail for their office staff to work a 4 day working week, the staff are incentivised themselves to become more creative, collaborative and communicative, with the objective of working one day less per week and crucially squeeze a working week's output in to 4 working days.
When it is mandated / forced on staff, they just do not have the incentive to deliver a working week's output satisfactorily. In France the government just legislated a 35 hour working week as the standard working week, which is what I believe the UK Labour party are currently proposing in the 2019 general election, but forcing staff to work a limited amount of hours is enormously expensive in lost output, sales and profit.
Why it has working in France is because their productivity is already 1/3 higher than the UK and the French are already some of the most productive employees in Europe.
The alternative and where employers gain substantially is announcing an ambition to gradually move to 4 day working, for office staff; Many of the tips, techniques and new working practices can be utilised by other types of staff (like Warehouse staff, sales staff, etc.) but the complications / implications can be expensive in lost sales / output. Where I have seen 4 day working work best is in Accounting, Architecture, Legal or Accounting offices, where there is a mixture of professional and support staff and where much of the work has input from several staff (e.g. A lawyer dictates a letter but is typed by a Paralegal).
The key driver to making this work in your office is where the Staff themselves are incentivised to change how they work, not where they are, in any way, obliged to limit their working hours. The voluntary nature of implementing 4 day working is, I think, key to making it work for your office. It is particularly beneficial to staff who have dependent children (or Parents) who they want to spend more time with their children / Parents and so spend less money on professional Care staff.
Many staff have (traditional) care duties for their childr
en, but increasing amounts of staff have Parental caring responsibilities thrust on them, if their parents deteriorate medically and suddenly with events such as heart attacks or dementia requiring more than annual leave and require ongoing medical care. In these circumstance, more productive staff can facilitate 4 day working and it can be a way of retaining expert Staff. Certainly many professionals are drawn to work for companies who offer flexible working, which since 2014 in the UK, has been an employer obligation if any employee requests it.
These are some suggestions which can facilitate enhanced staff productivity:
Ask your best-performing staff to train their work colleagues and teach them how to collaborate better, use technology better or share other tips which increase outputs.
Break down all the work required by each team and encourage the team to each specialise and become the team expert in one component of all the work the team does, For example, ask one or two team to do all the paperwork for the team, releasing other members of the team to become experts in other work components. Another team member could take all the telephone enquiries, or another could answer all the team's technical queries raised by customers. This focus allows individual staff to focus on how they could become even more productive as they are doing less multitasking.
IT Training is very under rated by Small Companies and I recommend that all the staff in every small company each do one or two days' IT training per year, or more as required. This is so beneficial to all the staff, that I advise staff training is even more important than upgrading a company's IT each year. As always, staff feel better about the company when it invests in them and is a very good way of a company buying Goodwill.
International Research shows that only 40% of employees currently work at full capacity in any given company, mainly because employees are distracted or demotivated by their work colleagues, noise in the workplace, poor management as well as just exhaustion and working too hard.
The idea behind a shorter working week is that employees would have the opportunity to spend more time on their other commitments outside of work and therefore would be more focused on their work when in the workplace.
Research also shows that employees who are satisfied at home tend to also work better in the office, this includes mothers with children, increasing numbers of employees with parental / caring responsibilities or employees with social /community responsibilities (Scouts, Church groups, Sports teams).
So why has 4 day working and 3 day weekend become popular?
The main driver of 4 day working has been the freedoms brought about by 21st Century technologies, which have enabled employees to work remotely, securely and safely away from the office. Further, the advances and deindustrialisation in industries such as retailing where staff are a significant part of the overall cost base has facilitated a complete re-evaluation of how the industry operates now and in the future. The increasing use 21st Century technologies is also forcing all companies to assess the future impact on them and their competitors and how they and their customers will be forced to evolve by developing trends or face extinction like Kodak, Debenhams or PowerGen.