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  • Writer's pictureMarianne Spencer

Do you trust your employees with a 4 day week?

Many concerns about the idea of a 4 day working week stem from assumptions, such as the need to work longer hours on the four days, taking a pay cut, or having to reserve personal errands for the three-day weekend. The prevailing notion is that gaining an extra weekend day requires sacrificing something else, as Steve pointed out in his previous blog regarding flexibility. However, I argue that concerns about flexibility issues predicted with a 4 day week could apply to a 5 day week as well.

The practice of a 5 day week in the UK originated in the 1800s when workers began observing a secular holiday known as Saint Monday. This day was typically taken off as workers recovered from their Saturday night activities. Over time, the church encouraged Sunday service attendance, trade unions advocated for change, and the leisure industry expanded, leading to the adoption of the current Saturday and Sunday weekend structure, which was fully embraced in the 1930s.

Despite only being established for around 100 years, the five-day work week has provided enough flexibility to accommodate events such as doctor appointments and childcare responsibilities. The choice of five days over four is a man-made concept based on weighing benefits against losses. So why not choose four? Just as in a 5 day week, where personal errands can be accommodated, a 4 day week doesn't necessarily restrict such flexibility. The key lies in implementation.

If an employer already allows flexibility in a 5 day week – for instance, permitting employees to visit the dentist or take a longer lunch break and make up hours on a Saturday – the same system can be applied in a 4 day week. The four-day week involves 32 hours of work, which can be organised to suit individual lifestyles. Employees are not tethered to their desks within those four days, just as they are not in a 'typical’ 5 day week.

The real issue does not lie with the 4 day week itself but with the underlying company culture. If an employer trusts employees to fulfil their hours in a 5 day week, that trust should extend to a 4 day week as well. Implementing a 4 day week should not be seen as a transactional contract or a bargaining system for control by companies.

In summary, the 4 day workweek offers a viable solution for promoting work-life balance without compromising productivity or flexibility. By embracing this model, organisations can foster a culture of trust and autonomy while empowering employees to achieve their full potential. Rather than viewing it as a step backwards, let's recognise the 4 day workweek as a progressive approach to modernising the workplace and prioritising employee well-being.

a home office in white and beige is againstthe right hand wall, the left hand wall is floor to ceiling windows with a view of the city. The Chair is left out and empty, showing that the worker has left.

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