Less sick days taken. A reduction in stress levels. Improved mental health for employees. These are just some of the arguments given for the introduction of a four-day working week across businesses in the UK.
With trials having taken place in various countries, including New Zealand and Japan, this flexible style of working has been seen to help improve productivity and creativity. A company in Japan tested the four-day working week for a month and saw a 40% increase in productivity. Similarly in New Zealand, employee stress levels reduced from 45% to 38%, and work-life balance scores increasing to 78% from 54%.
A 2019 BBC report showed that the UK is now working longer hours than any other country in Europe, only second to Greece. With a rise of presenteeism in offices, employees are facing increased pressures to over-perform. To tackle this, the Labor party have suggested cutting the working week down to just 32 hours, or 4 days. This agenda was met with hesitation and scepticism, with many thinking this shift would not align with our "always on" culture.
Interestingly, Forbes reported on a trial by a company who cut their hours to 35 a week, and didn't see a drop in productivity, instead seeing results as "near identical to months" of normal working hours.
As for employees, it's no wonder they are in need of a change. Just last year, over 600,000 employees suffered from work-related stress, anxiety or depression, with a huge 12.8m working days taken to deal with this.
While a bold suggestion, if we want to see a reduction in burnout and presenteeism and an improvement in mental health and productivity, something will have to change. And with more and more employees looking to their employers to provide them with genuine and sustainable wellness solutions (some even considering this more valuable than a high salary), it's crucial employers continue to put employee wellbeing at the forefront of their agendas.
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