4-day weeks and remote work - staff asking too much?

A quick summary:

A workplace that puts people first 💚

Exploring four day work weeks in the UK 📆

The power of remote and hybrid working 🏠

Our Verdict on four day work weeks and remote work 🔎

In a post-pandemic world, the workplace hasn’t just had to adapt, it’s been pushed to the brink of transformation - and depending on who you ask, it’s for the better or worse. Recent headlines have been hit with two topics, the role of an office and the new four day work week trials

From June to November 2022, a four day work week programme of more than 3,000 employees at 70 UK companies will take place. The experiment is based on a 100:80:100 model, meaning employers will maintain 100% of pay, at 80% of working time for 100% of productivity. 

Below, we’re examining the climbing demands of employees, from four day weeks to remote-first work. We’ll also take a look at exactly why the workplace, as we once knew it, is changing (or in the opinion of many, evolving).

Similar read: 3 Tactics to Boost Employee Wellbeing and Drive Employee Engagement

A people-first future that employers must embrace

Let’s be honest, how different did the workplace in a post-pandemic world truly look? The answer is it became unrecognisable. Employers embraced workplace mental health initiatives, workers remained remote, and countries around the world began to question the traditional five-day working week. 

Although the pandemic was nothing short of traumatic for the entire world, it does seem to have prompted change at a faster pace than ever seen before in the workplace. So much so, that the idea of remote work seemed unattainable for most people - now, 30% of the UK workforce works remotely for at least one day per week! 

In simple terms, it’s time for change in the workplace. The demands of employees move ever higher up the agenda, and the few companies that adopt a people-centric approach will climb to the top. 

How are you adopting an employee-first approach? What are you doing to support healthier, happier employees? Find out what our customers think about using Heka to support their people.

Four day work weeks 

Let’s first address a topic that has reached every news outlet, LinkedIn post and meeting room in the past few weeks - four day working weeks. Now, there are multiple ways for four day work weeks to exist. The first is to deduct wages in exchange for fewer work hours. The second is to maintain the same salary but fewer working hours. 

Day Week Global recently launched its four day work week programme in June, following on from previous trials that have occurred around the world. In collaboration with the likes of Oxford University and Cambridge University, researchers will assess the productivity and wellbeing of workers. 

Should the results showcase a positive outcome, who knows how it could pave the way for the future of work? The question is, are employees asking too much of employers for 100% pay at 80% of working time? And the answer isn’t so straightforward.

At this moment in time, research is still being conducted. Leaders should take into consideration the performance of their business, general productivity levels, the financial uncertainty of a recession and much more. It isn’t as simple as letting employees turn up four out of five days a week. 

The circumstances of each business will determine whether four day work weeks are a good idea right now. Ultimately, employees must be heard, and action must be taken. If leaders believe their business isn’t in the position to support four day work weeks, they must look for alternatives. 

Perhaps this means shorter days on a Friday, longer lunch hours and other incentives to drive engagement, morale and job satisfaction. With these outside the box ideas, leaders should track and assess productivity. Should it work? Maybe then leaders can begin to consider four day work weeks. 

Similar read: How to effectively manage employee wellbeing remotely

Remote first working flexibility for employees

The next big question is how much should leaders embrace flexible working? Understandably, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a spanner in the works of close contact work environments. From one extreme to the next, employers found themselves working from their bedrooms, gardens and local café shops (when they were allowed to open). 

Post-pandemic, however, the approach hasn’t changed dramatically, with millions of employees still working from home in some form or another. 15% of all UK surveyed employees say they prefer working from home daily.

Now, the likeliness that most employees would have returned to the office, should productivity have tumbled during the pandemic is high. For that reason, and backed by studies on remote work efficiency, working from home does work. Not only that, but remote-first work supports a healthier work-life balance. 

Mental health and wellbeing are vital to employees and are quickly becoming a determining factor in choosing one job over another. How businesses embrace health and wellbeing will influence their ability to attract, retain and build happy employees. A flexible working environment is the pinnacle of this, and employees are starting to skip vacancies that just don’t support flexible working.

As it stands, our opinion on remote working is that it is effective, with evidence to prove so. We believe leaders should actively encourage remote work or some form of flexible working. Unlike the four day work week, the world has become accustomed to flexible working, unintentionally or not, and it appears to represent the future of work. 

Technology moves at a rapid pace, and it has begun to revolutionise the way we work, and it is time for employers to embrace this!

Will four day work weeks lead to increased burnout?

Now, before we give our final verdict, there's one particular angle that goes unacknowledged in the latest four day work week trial - will it lead to burnout? Approaching the 100:80:100 model, leaders must recognise that shorter weeks and unchanged productivity could undermine the benefits it should offer. Burnout rates continue to plague the modern workplace, and the struggle to disconnect (especially in a remote-first environment) poses a threat to the results of a shorter week.

According to one report by The Metro, a survey of 2,000 adults in the UK found over a third of employees are on the brink of burnout. And the shift in working arrangements, social life, along with a future filled with uncertainty are to blame.

Ultimately, if employees are expected to squeeze the efficiency of five days into four, what processes can leaders put in place to prevent burnout. These trials are designed to alleviate stress, burnout and create a healthier lifestyle for employees, but without the right precautions, it could spiral in the wrong direction. Time will tell, and it is leaders who recognise this potential hurdle who will come out on top in this latest trial.

The verdict

So, what’s our verdict on four day work weeks and flexible working? While it is still early days for four day weeks, it is time to begin conversations around the topic. At a leadership level, companies should actively seek out ways to implement shorter weeks and days - ways to incentivise employees, while paying them fairly and maintaining productivity.

If anything is true, remote and hybrid working has shown how outdated an office environment is in today's world of work. The world has changed, and so should the practices and techniques to support employee in the workplace.

We believe remote-first working is the way forward, and we’re just as excited about four day working weeks. Leaders should follow the news and trials closely around shorter weeks. That way, employers can assess how things are set to change, and whether four day work weeks are a good idea for the future. 

Like anything in life, trial and error is how progress is made. Think outside the box, adopt a people-first approach to business and see if it can positively impact your business. Hybrid and remote work can only succeed when a good work-life balance is promoted to employees!

Note: Download our latest Q1 Employee Wellbeing Report 2022

Using Heka to boost employee wellbeing

Heka is an employee wellbeing platform based in the UK. Through our platform, employees are empowered to support healthier and happier lifestyles. We recognise the demand of employees and the need for a people-centric approach to the workplace. From counselling to therapy consultations, there’s something for every member of your team. 

Book a demo with our wellbeing experts

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