4-Day Work Week Pilot in the UK: A New Challenge or a Solution for a Post-Brexit Labour Shortages

COVID-19 changed our perspective of the workplace, and businesses had to adopt trends, such as flexibility and hybrid working spaces. The pandemic made companies think about productivity, work, and how people are maintaining their work-life balance. After many companies embraced remote work, it’s time to think about the next step that many employees will embrace. The biggest pilot project testing 4-day work week has started in the UK and it will last for quite some time. Will this cut the labour shortages caused by Brexit and how will the project affect  companies worldwide?

More than 70 companies and over 3,300 employees joined the pilot of testing a 4-day work week in the UK. The pilot is covering over 30 sectors and employees will be working from Monday until Thursday while being fully compensated. The purpose of the 4-day week programme is to measure productivity and wellbeing of workforce over six months and understand whether that is delivering similar results as a regular work week. The idea that the pilot was based on is the 100:80:100 model, where employees receive 100% of their salary whilst working 80% of their time, and being 100% productive. Besides the UK, over 150 companies across the USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand decided to join the programme.

Benefits of a 4-day work week 

  • Productivity – The main reason the project was started is to increase productivity. Employees will be motivated to finish their work faster and offer a better quality of work to the employer.
  • Wellbeing – A four-day work week will affect employees’ work-life balance and their mental and physical wellbeing in a positive way. With the current labour shortage and the war on talent, this is a huge benefit that your organization can offer to attract/retain employees.
  • Engagement – With a shorter work week, employees will focus more on tasks, performance, and productivity, rather than just the time they spend at work.
  • Recruitment – The key to retention since COVID-19 started was to attract talent by showing care for employees and their wellbeing. Conducted research reported that the lowest level of job burnout was found in employees that were working 4 days a week.
  • Sustainability – Shorter work week leads to fewer commutes, which is a positive outcome when it comes to the environment.

Challenges of a 4-day work week

  • Inadequate coverage – For B2C businesses might be challenging to find adequate coverage for customers. This raises the question of whether a 4-day work week is suitable for all industries. For example, in hospitality, retail, and other customer-facing industries, employers might be forced to choose between taking more staff or reducing business hours. 
  • Scheduling conflicts – Another challenge is related to internal scheduling that might cause problems. If you have to organize all of your meetings and brainstorming sessions in a 4-day work week, that might be challenging. 
  • Risk of reduced work – Ideally, the 4-day work week should improve productivity, but it might go in the wrong direction. For companies that embrace this model, it is important that employees find this model comfortable to make sure it is a perk for everyone.
  • Added stress – Employees will love a 3-day weekend, but on the other hand, it might be stressful organizing your work in a 4-day week. Some employees might feel pressured to finish everything that is on their plate in fewer hours, which can lead to more burnouts.
  • It is not for everyone – This model is not for everyone because the pace of work is not the same for all of your employees. Companies will have to keep an eye out on overtime and the performance of their employees to ensure that everyone is on track with what needs to be done.

How will this influence the future of work and HR? 

For many British employees, working eight hours a day, five days a week is hard for maintaining a good work-life balance. And considering that the UK is facing the biggest labour crisis in recent history, it’s a good move for employers to see whether this benefit can help them attract talent or not. Employees in the UK for sure have an appetite for better work-life balance and although flexible working is not a new initiative after the pandemic, more businesses are open to testing different strategies. Businesses worldwide should be prepared for the upcoming workplace shifts and adjust their strategies accordingly because if the pilot is successful in the UK, we shall see other countries adopt it as well. 

Competition in the UK market is fierce and it is hard to attract and retain talent, so employers should do everything they can to contribute to employee satisfaction since it seems that a competitive salary is no longer a number one priority.

With remote working and workplace flexibility becoming a norm in the business world, UK employers can also open the opportunity for themselves to expand the talent pool. Hiring abroad might be more difficult after Brexit, but it is certainly not impossible. And if you would like to learn more about hiring through PEO/EOR services in the UK, you are in the right place. Reach out to EuroDev and we would be more than happy to assist you with everything.
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About EuroDev

EuroDev was established in 1996 in the Netherlands with a single, defined purpose to help mid-sized North American companies expand their business in Europe. So far, we have partnered up with over 500 companies and helped them define and meet their European business goals. Services provided include Sales Outsourcing, HR Outsourcing, and Digital Marketing

Sources: The Economic Times, Guardian, Workest, PeopleHum

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