The four-day working week has made headlines this year as the UK’s pilot programme began, but what are the benefits and is it sustainable in the long term? unLTD’s Georgina Kerr finds out.
A hot topic of conversation over the last few months, the pilot scheme into the four-day working week finally began in June. Several companies in South Yorkshire have signed up to take part in the trial.
The six-month trial, which is due to run until November, is designed to see how a four-day week affects employee productivity, while hopefully encouraging a better work-life balance. During the pilot period, employees are paid 100 per cent of their wages for 80 per cent of their typical working hours with a commitment to maintaining at least 100 per cent productivity.
In line with the trial guidelines, staff at all of the participating businesses will be monitored to review their well-being, productivity and also how their workload has changed as a result of the new working pattern.
One of the businesses embracing the four-day week is Maxons. A traditional sweet manufacturer, Maxons has a long history in Yorkshire with Henry Dixon first launching the business in 1855. Since then, the Maxons brand has continued to develop and grow, now stepping firmly into the 21st century with the adoption of the four-day working week, proving it is not just office work that can embrace a new style of working.
Fellow manufacturers Rivelin Robotics have also committed to a four-day week. A small high-tech start-up, Rivelin Robotics is working on both regional and national projects to make manufacturing processes more accessible to a wider range of industries. Based in Sheffield’s Kelham Island, the robotics business has introduced a four-day week for everyone, starting with all staff taking Fridays off. To encourage productivity, the company is also promoting a two-hour do-not-disturb period for each individual during the day where staff can be completely focused on their tasks.
Whether the four-day week trial is labelled a success is yet to be decided, with five months still to go until its conclusion, but at this early stage, we can say that attitudes to the new working style from both business owners and employees alike have been largely positive.
The UK’s current four-day week trial is one of the biggest worldwide with over 3,300 participants across a range of industries. So with not just the UK, but the entire world, watching and waiting to see the results of the trial we can’t help but wait with our fingers crossed, hoping for a positive step forward for the four-day week and a greater work-life balance.
Case Study: WANdisco
WANdisco plc is one of the biggest businesses in South Yorkshire to have committed to the four-day working week. Jointly headquartered in Sheffield and Silicon Valley, WANdisco is a data activation platform which allows businesses to access their data with zero downtime, data loss or disruption through the cloud to power technology such as machine learning and AI.
With unlimited leave for its employees, WANdisco has already demonstrated how it is willing to adapt to benefit the wellbeing of its staff and compete against other employers in the job market, so joining the four-day week movement is a natural progression for this global company.
I spoke to David Richards, founder and CEO of WANdisco plc, to find out how the company has adapted to the changes, what its employees feel about it so far and why they decided to take the plunge into a more progressive working style.
Why did you decide to adopt the four-day working week?
We recognised the significant and permanent changes to working patterns that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic and we wanted to offer greater flexibility to all employees.
Our employees have embraced the opportunity to manage their time as they see fit to accomplish as much in four days as five. For some operations, such as customer-facing roles, a four-day week is not always possible, so we have introduced rota systems.
Some of our staff initially said they would prefer to keep to a five-day week, which we would support, but in practice, we have not found anyone doing that.
How have clients reacted to the news of your four-day week pattern?
The reaction to our announcement has been overwhelmingly positive. Global companies tend to recognise the productivity and well-being benefits of a progressive approach to the working week.
On a day-to-day basis, clients won’t have noticed any difference as we continue to provide high levels of service and we have introduced rota systems for some operations, including customer-facing roles. Employees are embracing the additional flexibility and freedom that a four-day week provides.
Do you feel that the change in hours has improved wellbeing within the business?
By being able to spend Friday with family and friends, pursue hobbies, volunteer, or go away for a long weekend, we believe the move has contributed to a greater work-life balance, which encourages mental and physical wellbeing.