The Four Day Week: A Flexible Step Too Far?
Can we start having three-day weekends? The idea isn’t as far-fetched as you might think. But is it taking flexible working a little too far?
Flexible working is on the rise. As technology advances and remote working becomes increasingly possible, workers are demanding more flexibility from their employers. In fact, officebroker.com recently reported that as many as 78% of workers would happily trade a pay rise for greater flexibility – including working from home – citing this as a key ingredient in job satisfaction.
That’s not to say their wish was granted, as the same survey suggests that only 25% of employees have ever had the green light to work from home.
With demand for flexibility on the rise, it seems only a matter of time before the UK’s working culture shifts in favour of the workforce. But just what is flexible working – and what exactly does “flexible” really mean?
Head south approximately 3,600 miles, and flexibility means much more than the odd day at home in your pyjamas.
In the West African nation of the Gambia, flexible working has taken on a whole new meaning. President Jammeh has shortened the working week, reducing it to four days and making Friday part of the weekend. It means that Gambian public sector workers still have a 40-hour week, but they now clock in from 8am to 6pm Monday to Thursday.
To many employees and office workers in the UK, making Friday the new Saturday is the best idea since sliced bread. But is it practical?
According to a BBC report, it works in the Netherlands – where one in three workers squeeze their normal hours into a four-day week. And of course shift working is widely adopted across numerous industries worldwide.
The four-day policy is in use by different businesses, albeit fairly sporadically. One SEO company in the US state of Indianapolis operates a four-day week to let employees “recharge” on a Friday.
“We call them research days,” said manager Steven Shattuck. “They give people a chance to stay up on things, maybe do some independent research or spend time with their families. On Monday mornings people aren’t so groggy – they hit the ground running.”
As a result, Steven says the team is more motivated and their time in the office is more productive. It’s also a key factor in staff retention.
However for many businesses, the five-day week is still the norm – and certain moulds are very hard to break. Clients may feel reluctant to work with businesses that operate a four-day week as it forces their workers to do the same, and conduct all correspondence between Monday to Thursday. Sometimes when deadlines are tight, this can be an unwelcome restriction. What happens if an urgent issue crops up on a Friday?
Other drawbacks include the nature of work. According to the CBI, 53% of firms said their operating hours or the nature of their work – such as retail outlets, call centres or customer support – was a limiting factor in offering flexible working. But the CBI agrees that flexibility is the future – citing the need for “an individual approach” to find a best-fit arrangement for all concerned.
Have your say: Is a four-day week the future? Does savvy technology mean workers should ask for greater flexibility? Or is the traditional five-day 9-5 still the best way forward?
And more importantly – what would you do with a three-day weekend?
Image by hyena reality via FreeDigitalPhotos.net.