Four-day week needs careful planning to succeed

Nine in 10 UK employees reportedly support a four-day week, yet experts warn that HR needs to take a measured approach to reap its benefits.

New data from experience management software firm Qualtrics has shown that over four in five (83%) UK workers believe a four-day week would improve their mental health, and 90% say their work/life balance would be better.

A further 84% said they would be more productive under the policy.

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Employers need to be careful when implementing a shorter working week, experts have warned.

Kelly Robertson, group operations director at MRL Consulting Group, where the four-day week has been successfully introduced, told HR magazine that planning is key.

She said: “Transitioning to a four-day week isn’t something that should be taken lightly. 

“We conducted six months of research followed by a six month trial of the four-day week, and invested large amounts of time into coaching and training our staff around productivity and time management.”

Last month (February), Belgium gave workers the right to request a four-day week. 

Campaigners, however, have said that the Belgian policy, which compresses the work of a normal working week into four days, defeats the point of the scheme.

Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, told HR Magazine: “We welcome more flexibility for workers to choose when they work but compressing a normal five-day week into four days is not the answer to tackling burnout, stress and overwork.

“It's essential that the move to a four-day week involves a reduction in working hours, with no loss of pay for employees.”

David Stone, chief executive of MRL Consulting Group, warned against stretching the hours over the remaining four days. He said: "This is fraudulent and defeats the true purpose of the initiative."

He added that whatever the case, support and training would be needed to make it work. 

Stone said: “Listen to [employees] and support them as they adjust the rhythms and tempo of their workflow.  

“Remove obstacles, coach and mentor through any challenges – this is a team sport.”

 Robertson added: “The key to implementing the four-day week successfully is communicating effectively, openly and honestly with all those involved.

“Do your research, be open and direct with everyone who interacts with your business about transitioning to a four-day week. When we informed our clients and candidates, they were very supportive.”