Who else has been wondering if the current pandemic has made the 4-day week idea redundant?
“Absolutely nobody, Jamie”.
Well here is a blog about it… strap in people.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog about a 4-day working week. Little did I know then that during 2020, our working patterns would be totally disrupted and employers would have to look at new and flexible ways to keep their teams working in a way that is unprecedented. The ability to structure a working week in ANY sort of way suddenly became a massive challenge for us all.
Who doesn’t like a short working week?
My favourite time of year is Spring, where we get a few short weeks over Easter and May. (Although let’s face it, everyone knows it’s really a three day weekend). And it’s great. But is it feasible to think it could be a weekly occurrence? Would it be workable from a productivity viewpoint – and perhaps more to the point, would people actually want it?
Momentum is certainly growing
There’s definitely some political appetite for a 4-day week, with a cross-party group of MPs writing to the Chancellor last year, outlining the multiple benefits it would bring to society, the environment, mental health and the economy.
And according to think tank Autonomy, a carefully designed 4-day week is eminently feasible for organisations with 50+ employees. They studied 50,000 companies and concluded that a shorter week could be introduced with neither a loss of productivity nor the need to raise prices.
They agreed that such a move would help to boost productivity and give workers a better work-life balance. And whilst their recommendation would be that different strategies for different industries be carefully planned, their findings also revealed that if it happened overnight, with no planning, most organisations would remain profitable.
But has a more flexible approach to working that has emerged from the pandemic made the idea of the 4-day week redundant?
“I know!”, I thought, “I’ll do a Poll. Nobody else is doing that on LinkedIn”
So to avoid doing some real work for a bit, I decided to do my own research on LinkedIn, asking just this question. The results were actually pretty evenly split, with 42% liking the idea of a more general flexible approach and 41% preferring the idea of a formal 4-day week. Interestingly, 18% preferred the ‘old’ way of working. (So my poll also had the added benefit of identifying all the complete psychopaths amongst us).
Here’s some of the feedback received
‘What is a 4-day week? Working four days from the office and three days from the home office? People get paid for getting things done. Covid hasn`t changed anything on that. Doesn`t matter from where you do it or how long it takes.’
‘I think the old way of working will return a lot quicker, so a 4-day week is still possible. Patagonia has got it right; they give employees a three-day weekend every other week.’
‘The flexibility is nice, but I miss the ability to go into the office. It will be very cool upon reopening for companies to build in more set office/remote time where maybe half the teams are remote every Monday and half on Friday with flexibility Tues-Thurs depending on role/schedule.’
‘Lots of stories of people now working longer hours as they cannot leave work at work, there is little point in losing your commute if you just spend it working. Also for many, the commute is a great time to be in your own headspace. There will never be a one size fits all.’
Where does this leave us?
It seems very clear that feelings are mixed and fairly evening split, and whilst some people would welcome a formalised 4-day week with open arms, others see a downside. Home working has been a bonus for many, a prison sentence for others. Some people work better on their own; others thrive in an office environment. As always, each individual’s own circumstances and internal drivers will determine the best solution for them.
Excellent. That was a waste of time then…
Actually, it wasn’t. I think the fact feelings were so mixed, demonstrated that one solution for everyone wouldn’t work. Surely what is important is the autonomy and the flexibility to manage your own schedule. When and where you work. It’s probably the main reason why I’ve worked for myself for 12 years. I do think that a lasting effect of the pandemic will be to shift the focus away from how long you work, and on to the quality of your output. As long as you get your work done and achieve the objectives set, it shouldn’t matter where or when you do it.
And that has to be a good thing, doesn’t it?