The beginning of 2023 has seen many companies- from fish and chip shops to investment banks- come to the end of trialling a 4 day week for their employees.
The trial (which ran from Summer 2022 to December) saw multiple companies reduce their weekly hours without reducing pay to see whether the 4 day week would impact their growth, finances and overall employee wellbeing. According to the BBC, of the 62 companies that took part in the trial, 56 plan to carry on for the time being, and 18 companies have stipulated that it's a permanent change. With such a high percentage of companies taking part choosing the maintain the changes- and a high demand from prospective employees- there is an overall sense that more and more businesses will give the four day week a go.
What are the potential benefits for a four day working week? And how does introducing one impact the search for new, industry- leading talent?
One of the main contradictions of introducing a four day week is that whilst many would assume productivity would be negatively impacted, staff members across the spectrum have reported increased productivity. Team members have explained that as a result of having a day off during the middle of the week (the trial saw the majority of companies take Wednesday off) they come back with a renewed sense of energy for tasks on the last remaining day. Managers have also described the positive impacts, saying that the extra-downtime has given them more time to relax during the week and also made their team generally happier.
Of course, with increased down-time comes comes a positive spike in overall employee well-being. The increased time at home has meant an opportunity to get things done during the working week, leaving more time on the weekends to relax; a factor that is no doubt helpful for working parents and people with care responsibilities. The increased space and relaxation time has also offered employees on the trial better work- life balance, with many citing the extra time with family and friends as a massive boost mid-week. With 12.7% of sick days taken in the UK attributed to poor mental health (costing an eye-watering 8 billion annually), the trial can be seen to operate as an investment for companies who will no doubt also reap the benefits of having a happier, more productive workforce.
Many companies considering moving to a four day week find the potential loss of revenue concerning. Whilst companies who submitted revenue information at the end of the trial have not shown any revenue growth, they have also not shown any decline, with managers suggesting that the increased productivity during the working week has meant that performance outcomes have remained largely the same as they were when working a five day week. As the trial only ran for half of the year in 2022, it is hard to predict what the financial implications for businesses will be long term. However, taking into account the impacts on employee wellbeing and productivity, it is no wonder that more companies are considering trying it for themselves.
With increased media attention around the success of the trial, its no wonder that industry-leading talent are expressing an interest in working a four day week.
Here to stay: can we expect more companies to adopt the scheme?
Whilst it's still early days in terms of the scheme's introduction into weekly practice, cultural commentators predict that the four day week will eventually become common practice across the UK.
Indeed, in the healthcare communications space, leading pharmaceutical companies and communications agency have already implemented this structure, and candidates are increasingly identifying the attractive nature of such a working style when considering new roles. It is possible then, that further down the line companies wishing to stay ahead of the competition will be inclined to introduce their own 4 day weeks, or at the very least be aware of the changing trend within the market. With the pharma industry being so fast-paced and fluid, companies wishing to introduce a 4 day week would likely have to stagger their teams so that not everyone is out of office on the same day. Of the healthcare communications agencies who have already introduced a four day week, this staggered practice has aided the seamless integration of the changes.
From a candidate perspective, since the pandemic saw the unprecedented widespread introduction of remote working swathes of talent have seen the benefits of flexible working, with a certain level of push-back from teams whose companies want their staff back in office five days a week. In many ways, the introduction of a four day week is merely the latest evolvement in a working culture which has seen so much change in the last few years, almost feeling like a natural progression for those who have attributed their increased productivity and overall happiness with a change in attitudes towards flexibility.
Want to know more about the conversations in the healthcare communications market? Our team inform both clients and talent on emerging market trends and changes within the sector, offering impartial advice and guidance to help companies consistently benchmark their practices and offerings against industry standards. If you're a company within the healthcare communications or economics space and want to know more about what emerging talent are looking for in their next roles, reach out to the team at Carys Mills Consulting today.
For information and general enquiries, contact