Anthropy: Is a four-day week the future of work?.

Martin Williams – employment partner at Mayo Wynne Baxter, which is part of Ampa, who will be attending this year’s Anthropy – discusses new ways of working.

While flexible working existed long before Covid-19, lockdown upped the ante and forced companies globally to reimagine the way their people work – with many adopting hybrid practices during and post-pandemic.

The phrase Great Resignation was coined in early 2021 after people started leaving their jobs en masse, looking for greater flexibility, better pay and more fulfilment at work – leading to global skills shortages.

Both of these led to employers re-evaluating the benefits they offer to their workforce in the hopes of attracting and retaining talent – including flexible working practices.

More than 3,330 workers at 70 companies in the UK are taking part in a six-month pilot of a four-day week, allowing employees to take home 100% of their pay for 80% of the time in exchange for a commitment to maintain 100% productivity.

According to the latest research, 2 in 3 Brits would quit their current job if they were offered a similar role elsewhere with a four-day working week, while flexible hours and remote working would tempt 64% and 56% of employees respectively.

The immediate reaction to any four-day week proposal is that employees will be providing reduced input. However, this does not automatically translate to reduced productivity – concentrated effort with rest in between can, in fact, result in someone making better use of their time.

Further advantages include improved morale and fewer absences caused by less burnout. However, a four-day working week may not be suitable for every sector –  in the case of a hospital where 24/7 coverage is required, for example, there will be a 20% increase in costs if salaries are to remain the same. Furthermore, where work is paid hourly, the four-day week would not be an incentive.

It could also prove problematic and serve to widen the gap between the types of work being carried out within the same company. For example, desk-based salaried employees in an office on a four-day week may be a source of resentment for those on the shop floor being paid hourly.

Rather than offering a four-day week, at Ampa we have empowered working principles, which are supporting greater work-life balance by empowering our people to work when and where suits them, their teams and clients. Since their launch, average sickness absence days per month have dropped by almost 60%, and in the past year, engagement with our internal surveys about staff satisfaction has increased by 19%.

Inevitably, it is clear more efficient ways of working are needed and these will vary from sector to sector. This will involve serious and focused thought, alongside investment. Whatever flexibility a company decides to offer, the definition of work is evolving and highlighting the need for businesses to listen, learn, adapt and put their people at the forefront of their decisions.

To find out more about Anthropy, please visit here.