Could the UK manage a four-day working week?

Image by ELG21 from Pixabay

I took a personal decision about 18 months ago to address my work/life balance and condense my full time, five day a week hours into full time, four days a week. This means longer days Monday to Thursday, but I have Fridays off.  It has been revolutionary. I am grateful to my boss and employer who agreed that I could do this.

I read recently that Iceland (the country not the frozen food shop) had been experimenting with workers being paid the same amount but only working four days   Other trials had been taking place in parts of Spain and in some companies in New Zealand.  The Icelandic trial workforce, based within a range of preschools, offices, hospitals and social care providers reduced their hours from 40 hours per week to 35 or 36 hours per week.  Now approximately 86% of the Icelandic workforce works a shorter week for the same pay.

The benefits of the trial showed that workers felt less stressed and therefore at less risk of burnout, and their work/life balance improved.  Workers felt healthier and moral and atmosphere in the workplace improved. The director of research said the study showed an overwhelming success with workers being just as productive in four days as they would have been in five, and that the public sector was ready for a step change.

I can certainly attest to feeling much less stressed knowing that I have Fridays off and that I can fit other parts of my life in more easily.  If we choose to go out, or visit our daughter or other family members, or just take some time to relax.  We can still get everything we need to get done over the course of the weekend but in less of a rush.  Even chores seem less stressful because we don’t have to rush to get them done so that we can have some down time.

According to the UK has one of the longest working weeks across Europe.  There is a group in the UK who are trying to get the government to move to a four-day week for the benefits outlined above, but also it thinks that it would reduce overall carbon footprint.  I think that it is now really possible to consider this given that we can work from home and use technology differently to do a lot of jobs.  I just wonder whether some employers would down grade jobs as they may not be able to sustain the same costs with lower output. For public sector roles most of the money required to pay salaries comes back in the form of income tax and national insurance contributions, so the overall cost to employers would be relatively low even if they did have to employ more staff to cover any shortfall.

Whereas I still work the same hours but condensed into four days, this means I get the same pay, the same annual leave and bank holiday entitlement, as its all calculated on the number of hours you work, not the number of days, or the days of the week you work.  I don’t mind doing slightly longer days, as I was generally doing those hours anyway before but just not getting paid for them. 

I would certainly recommend a four day week to anyone that can.


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