One in three employers thinks most workers will be able to work a four-day week within the next decade, but few organisations have taken steps to make this a reality.
A survey carried out by the CIPD for its four-day week report found that progress towards achieving a four-day week is slow, despite rising interest in the concept. Just 1% planned to reduce hours without lowering employees’ pay.
More than 70 employers are currently taking part in a six-month trial of a four-day working week, led by the 4 Day Week campaign. A recent poll found nine in 10 participants are likely to continue the arrangement when the pilot concludes.
One in 10 organisations surveyed by the CIPD have already reduced working hours without cutting pay for the whole or a significant part of their workforce in the past five years. However, 47% of these admit this was a result of the government’s furlough scheme during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Two-thirds of the 2,000 HR professionals who responded to the four-day week survey said the move would depend on their organisation’s ability to improve efficiency, “work smarter” and invest in new technology.
Of those that have slashed working hours, 36% said the main driver was to improve employee wellbeing, while 30% wanted to boost recruitment and retention. However, 32% had to do so because demand for their products or services decreased.
Thirty-two per cent said the new way of working did not suit everybody in their organisation, while 30% were unable to acheive the same output as before.
Jonathan Boys, senior labour market economist at the CIPD said: “The rationale behind the move for the four-day week is a positive one, to give people more leisure time and improve their wellbeing while increasing their productivity to compensate.
“The major sticking point is the need to increase productivity by a whopping 25% to make up for the output lost from fewer days of work. This point came through in our findings with a majority of employers saying they would need to work smarter and adopt new technology in order to reduce working hours without cutting pay.
“The four-day week also faces a challenge as the cost-of-living crisis bites. People may very well look to increase their hours to boost their income.”
Boys added that organisations should listen to their workforce, look at the evidence emerging from the trial, and consider how they can pilot new ways of working.