Four day week. Is it possible?

Debate around a four-day week in the UK has been gathering momentum over the last two years. A century of working time reductions in Britain has stalled since the 1980s but public appetite for a shorter working week has not gone away. With the UK facing a decade-long productivity crisis, concerns about presenteeism and a fear that a lot of time spent at work is unproductive, questions are now being seriously asked about whether it is time to push for more working time reductions. 

Proponents of a four-day week argue it could provide a major boost to the UK’s productivity, help to reduce carbon emissions, provide more time for family and community care and volunteering as well as promoting wellbeing and quality of life for employees. The Trades Union Congress has taken up the campaign and the Labour Party appears keen to adopt the four-day week as a key policy item for its next manifesto.

Case studies of a number of firms, particularly the widely-cited Perpetual Guardian case in New Zealand, have raised awareness of the issue and demonstrated that a four-day week is possible and can come with real benefits, including the much sought-after productivity boost. However, significant barriers remain for many firms around the complexity of implementing such a policy; particularly for those in customer-facing or public service roles where a four-day week would require the hiring of many more workers if continuity of service was to be maintained. Overcoming such challenges will be key if the dream of a four-day week is to become a reality for many in the coming years.

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