The typical five day working week is the norm in the UK, but more companies are introducing a four day working week in an attempt to improve staff productivity and work to life balance.
The Trade Unions Congress (TUC) is a national trade union calling on UK government to cut the working week to four days and continue the same salary, as “new technology like Al, automation and robotics could pave the way for better working conditions – including higher pay and reduced workload.” The TUC used their annual conference to put the proposition forward to UK leaders.
The report, ‘A Future that Works for Working People’, as produced by TUC, shows that “eight in ten workers (81%) want to reduce working time in the future – with 45% of workers opting for a four day working week, without loss of pay, as new tech makes work more efficient.”
A small number of businesses in the UK have followed suit and implemented this working style. Many have reported positive differences such as an increase in employee morale and an overall improvement in financial performance. It has been reported that the benefits of a shorter working week can help tackle the following:
Health Conditions: According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), 1.4 million workers suffered from both new and long standing work related stress from 2017 to 2018. This includes anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and a series of other type of illnesses. By reducing working hours, this reduces the burden and the amount of stress on the worker.
Work related illnesses also pose pressure on health services which costs the taxpayer. Due to illness and stress, this may result in more time to be booked off work. By reducing the work week, this could mean less stress and less time off work which in turn, benefits employers.
Productivity: By reducing working hours, employees could be happier which can improve productivity levels. If the working environment reflects high morale, staff may also be more loyal.
NHS staff have previously been labelled as overworked due to staff cuts, with many news outlets stating a ‘crisis of overworking in the UK’. This is an example of routine work pressures faced by sectors working with tight budgets.
Family Lives: An extra day off leaves more time for families to build stronger relationships. By establishing a strong balance between family and working life, this may affect the level of morale from employees.
Underemployment and Unemployment: A four day week would allow the extra leftover work to create new jobs for the unemployed. Collectively, this could reduce the current percentage of unemployment which stands at 4 per cent. Underemployed members of staff are those not working enough hours, the new structure could also create opportunities for the underemployed.
A growing number of companies in Scandinavian countries such as New Zealand work longer hours and a four-day working week. These countries have stronger economies when compared to the UK and the wealth distribution per person is typically higher. This is an indicator of the four day structure working harmoniously for the many employers and employees.
From the perspective of the employer, this would require changes to be made by HR and the reorganisation of staff members in order to maintain standard working hours. The question is whether the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
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