Hybrid and remote working models have helped answer calls for increased flexibility since the pandemic. But for plenty of people, working from home is not all it is cracked up to be…

Many employees felt pressure to be available 24/7 after going remote, causing them to work longer hours. With less downtime, a 2022 employee sentiment survey by LumApps found that 89% of employees had experienced burnout in the past 24 months, which has had a negative knock-on effect on staff satisfaction and prompted a rise in sick days across several industries.

And these problems have not gone unnoticed.

Alarm bells have been ringing for businesses facing pressures to achieve optimum productivity and keep up employee retention in today’s challenging recruitment market, where ensuring the health and happiness of staff is more crucial than ever.

So, it comes as no surprise that people hope to find a solution in a four-day workweek, which could see employees getting 100% of their pay for 80% of their typical working hours, promising better work-life balance, increased efficiency and a whole host of well-being benefits.

This model was put to the test from June to December 2022. Now that the results are in, it is time to look at the facts and see how they will shape recruitment strategies in the future…

Findings of the four-day workweek pilot

The 2022 four-day workweek trial comprised 61 companies and around 2,900 workers in the UK — all of whom tested a meaningful reduction to weekly working hours with no pay cut.

Some companies closed on Fridays or gave select teams different days off. Others only offered the 32-hour workweek in less busy seasons or to those who met performance targets.

Whichever strategy participants chose, the trial was largely a success, with 92% of companies deciding to keep a shorter working week after the trial period — something that is not hard to believe when we look at the results for employees…

  • 71% worked for fewer hours
  • 71% reported a reduction in burnout
  • 54% felt fewer negative emotions, such as stress
  • 54% found it easier to balance work with household jobs
  • 62% said it was easier to combine work with social life

These changes also benefited business owners, with 57% witnessing a reduction in resignations and 65% experiencing less absenteeism due to sick and personal days during the trial period.

However, many employers will be taking these findings with a pinch of salt.

After all, a six-month test period might not accurately reflect how a four-day workweek would look across a whole year or when busier times arise. For example, how would accounting professionals fare with reduced hours in the run-up to the financial year end?

The trial also saw no change to the share of housework between men and women, meaning female participants did not quite get to enjoy the work-life balance the shorter workweek promised — something to note for industries hoping to tackle the gender gap.

Still, the four-day workweek has several potential advantages overall. But business owners should consider all the pros and cons before jumping in at the deep end…

Adapting to new ways of working

There are several logistical factors for employers and hiring professionals to consider before four-day workweeks can become the norm.

For example, reduced workweeks might not be suitable for all employees or departments within an organisation. Plus, with widespread labour shortages raging on, some companies may struggle to upskill remaining workers or hire new talent to fill gaps when staff begin working fewer hours.

So, what can companies do to offer some of the benefits of the four-day week during this transitional period?

Often, small adjustments can make a big impact. Take the implementation of new technologies as an example. Artificial intelligence software can take over repetitive admin tasks and free employees of lengthy or unmotivating duties, boosting productivity and staff morale.

Introducing flexible working hours can also help improve staff well-being. For instance, allowing workers to spread their hours around childcare commitments could reduce burnout — especially in female employees. After all, research has shown that 52% of women in senior management positions are responsible for all or most of their family’s housework and/or childcare, compared to 13% of men at the same level.

And when it comes to ensuring they can find and retain the best staff whilst working models shift, employers can enlist the support of an external recruitment agency to nail their recruitment strategy.

A recruitment agency can provide employers with the tools to secure and onboard top talents, pinpoint shortfalls in team structures and train existing staff. All these capabilities will be crucial in the evolving business world, where companies must be able to adapt to survive…

Howett Thorpe is a recruitment agency in Farnham, Surrey. For help tackling recruitment and retention within your business, call 01252 718777 or email farnham@howett-thorpe.co.uk.