Could a 4-day work week benefit us as the cost of living rises?

Better work-life balance, increased productivity… The mental health benefits of a shorter working week are well-documented, but as the cost of living rises, could it make sense financially too?

Switching to a four-day working week with no loss of pay could help households save money as the cost of living crisis bites, according to a thinktank.

The arguments in favour of a four-day work week have previously focused on the increase in productivity and the positive impact on workers’ wellbeing, but thinktank Autonomy has suggested that the scheme could also help workers who are finding that their finances are stretched as inflation rises and energy bills soar, according to The Guardian.

A parent with a child under two would save £1,440 on average over one year if they worked four days a week, Autonomy estimated, using data on the average cost of childcare in 2021 from the Trades Union Congress.

A commuter could also save £340 if they didn’t have to travel to work one day a week, a figure based on a 2019 survey of 2,000 people around the UK that put the average annual commute cost at around £1,700.

These savings would, of course, have to be considered against the cost of heating homes during the day, as well as spending on any extra activities on the additional day off.

“The benefits of a four-day week for the wellbeing of workers and boosting productivity are well known, but the impact it could have on the cost of living has so far been overlooked,” said Will Stronge, Autonomy’s director of research. “A four-day week with no loss of pay could play a crucial role in supporting workers to make ends meet over the next few years.”

Autonomy is coordinating the ongoing 4 Day Week campaign along with researchers from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and Boston College in the United States. 

A four-day working week has been linked to higher productivity and better work-life balance

4 Day Week’s six-month UK pilot launched in June this year, and is thought to be the biggest scheme of its kind in the world, with 73 companies who collectively employ around 3,300 workers signing up for the trial. The programme is based on the 100-80-100 model, where workers receive 100% pay for 80% of the time, while operating at 100% productivity.

At the halfway point, a survey of participants found that 88% of respondents said the trial was working well, with 86% of them likely to consider the shorter week after the experiment comes to an end.

Similar trials are also taking place in the United States, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The new impetus for a shorter working week comes after the coronavirus pandemic caused many workers and employers to adopt a hybrid working model, with working from home and flexible hours more common. This shift, in turn, prompted a reassessment of traditional working patterns that have gone unchanged for decades.

Though a four-day work week isn’t feasible for some industries, especially businesses that require a 24/7 presence, the policy certainly looks like a popular one among UK workers: a 2021 survey by the recruitment firm Reed found that 83% of participants would prefer to adopt it. 

Previous attempts to test out this working pattern have been well-received with employers and employees alike. In 2019, Microsoft Japan gave its workforce Fridays off throughout August without decreasing its pay, and found that the move boosted productivity by 40%. The previous year, New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian tried out the four-day week over two months. Staff were not only 20% more productive, but they also said they experienced a better work-life balance as a result, with scores increasing from 54% to 78%, and stress levels decreasing by 7%.

Before the UK study, the biggest trial took place in Iceland between 2015 and 2019, with more than 2,500 workers getting involved. In the majority of companies, productivity either stayed the same or improved, and workers once again said that they had better work-life balance as a result.

In the aftermath of the study, 86% of Iceland’s workforce either adopted shorter hours for the same pay or won the right to do so in the future thanks to trade union campaigns.  In Belgium, meanwhile, new labour reforms may soon mean that workers can try out a four-day week for a six-month period, after which point they can either continue with the shorter week or return to a longer one.

Images: Getty

Source: Read Full Article