The movement towards a shorter working week has been gathering momentum in recent years and there has been more discussion than ever about the concept of the 4 day work week and the form it might take. With employee wellbeing having been at the forefront of business strategy since before COVID19, it’s more important than ever to employers that their employees are happy at work.

The concept is simple. Make four working days per week the new standard for “full time” work. The argument for its positive impacts on the worker are pretty simple; less time at work will lead to less stress and an improved work-life balance, with more time to enjoy personal lives outside of work. Alongside this, current studies show that the four day work week does not actually reduce productivity at work but might actually increase it.

Thought to be the largest trial of its kind in the world so far, at the start of June, more than 3,300 employees at over 70 UK companies started working four days a week with no reduction in pay. The trial taking place in the UK currently is based on the 100-80-100 model. 100% of the pay for 80% of the hours, for 100% of the output and productivity. At the halfway point in the trial 86% of companies said they planned to keep the 4 day week after the trial had ended with 95% saying productivity had either improved or stayed the same.

Our relationship to work has changed massively in recent years. Thanks to the rise in flexible and hybrid working forced on us by the pandemic, many of us already work compressed hours, working our usual 40 hours a week over a number of different patterns with a large number of people having turned their backs on the 9-5 office life for good. But one of the many benefits of the 4 day work week is that it is not a compressed work schedule, but instead reduced hours. A 4 day week allows you to work for 32 hours over 4 days with a 3 day weekend for the same pay rather than the usual 40.

The 4-day work week will obviously not work for everyone. As a model it has its issues and is not suitable for all industries or workers. Those who are paid hourly would not be able to reduce their hours without also taking a reduction in pay, and this is not a position that many are fortunate enough to be in. There is also the issue of labour shortages to consider. While it can be argued that fewer working hours can help to retain staff, for industries such as hospitality or customer service, a reduction in hours would leave gaps in work schedules that would need to be filled.

There’s no one right answer. The four-day work week is a constantly evolving topic and conversation and likely will be for many years to come. Employees spend over a third of their lives at work. What’s important is you do what is right for them and your business. The world is changing quickly, and we need to keep up – we owe it to ourselves and our employees to do so.