How to manage the four-day working week

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

By Ruth Zawoda Clea, above, founder, Truly Content Ltd

What used to be somewhat of a dream for many, has now become a reality for people all over the UK, with the four-day workweek becoming the norm. Following the success of the recent UK four-day workweek trial, many more Brits are eyeing-up this sought-after work schedule. In fact, 8 out of 10 people in the UK would prefer the four-day working week.

While this demonstrates the demand for flexible working and that it can work successfully, it can be difficult to manage this change in structure. Leaders must lead by example if they want their staff to transition smoothly into the four-day week and reap the rewards.

The Shift To Flexible Working

There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic changed many things, including the way we work. As we were forced to stay inside and away from our offices, we saw the switch to a more flexible working schedule with many companies offering a work-from-home option throughout the various lockdown periods.

Following the pandemic, this ideal has seemed to stick, with businesses all over the UK offering remote work opportunities as well as hybrid working. Something that shifted out of necessity, has become a change in how we perceive work, with many professionals now valuing work-life balance over higher pay or other perks. Thus, as perceptions of work alter, we are currently seeing a move towards a four-day workweek.

The Four-Day Workweek

Between June and December of last year, over 60 companies from all over the UK trialled the four-day workweek. After this groundbreaking trial was complete, 90% of participating businesses decided to continue with the four-day week, as employees cited lowered stress levels and fatigue and improved mental and physical health. Employers also saw no loss in profits and happier staff.

Along with this, offering a four-day working week can be a tool for competitive advantage as this major perk can help attract and retain talent. Research also shows that companies that focus on making their employees happy and prioritise engagement actually outperform their peers.

How To Ensure A Smooth Transition

The most crucial aspect of a smooth transition from a five-day week comes from the top. Leadership has to ‘walk the talk’ if they want flexible working initiatives to succeed. Employees will follow suit when they feel their senior team members are keeping up with the working standards.

Personally, I started working a four-day workweek when I had my second child. The benefits to my personal and professional life were vast and I saw my company thrive because of this. However, I couldn’t continue to work on limited hours when my employees were working full-time. I decided to lead by example and offer this to everyone in my company and morale and engagement have increased significantly.

On the other hand, senior leadership must also work to stick to four days once the initiative is in place. Many companies have previously worked with an outdated mantra of ‘work hard play hard’ with businesses’ driving teams to burn out with long hours and late nights. Managers and those at a senior level must work within the set hours and switch off when they are outside of work. This will trickle down throughout the company and allow for better company culture.

Looking Ahead

Post-pandemic, it is clear the workforce has changed its ideals. Workers now value their work-life balance above all else. Allowing for flexible working and fewer hours is essential to keep your business competitive for talent, employee retention and profits. With more and more companies committing to offering their staff a shorter week, now is the time to future-proof your business and do the same. However, leadership must drive this initiative and employees’ performance will excel because of this.

Ruth Zawoda Clea founded Truly Content Ltd. alongside her sister, Alice Zawoda, in 2014, combining their expert knowledge of branding and SEO. The business advises its clients on digital marketing strategy as well as a wide range of others services including content, website design and compliance.

 

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024