Shorter hours

Four-day week would tempt return to office

We Work office Edinburgh

Offices have been left empty since Covid (pic: Terry Murden)

Office workers would be prepared to give up their work from home routine in exchange for a four-day week, according to new research.

It found that close to two-thirds (63%) of workers would prefer to work a four-day week, spending all their time in the office, compared to just (37%) who would prefer to work five hybrid days.

A third of employers would also be more likely to consider a shorter week if staff committed to spending to spending all their time in the office.

The number of professionals who would be tempted to move jobs if an organisation was offering a four-day week has increased to 68% from 53% in 2022.

The findings by recruitment company Hay points to a growing compromise over the workplace and could breathe new life into empty offices.

The research received involved more than 11,800 respondents, including 788 in Scotland.

However, Keith Mason, Hays Scotland director, says that there are many aspects to be explored before making major changes to a traditional five-day working week:

“It’s clear from our research that the appetite for a four-day working week has increased from both professionals and employers.

“However, in reality only 5% of respondents to our survey are working for an organisation where this is actually happening.”

Keith Mason: many things to consider

“The idea of a four-day week might be appealing, but there are many things to consider, not least – what is it we’re trying to fix? Is it to increase work-life balance? To support well-being?

“Organisations were quick to adopt hybrid working as a result of the pandemic, however, the four-day week poses a much bigger cultural and operational shift for many organisations.”

Mr Mason believes it will be a while before the four-day week takes off at speed due to the fact that many organisations need to operate five days a week, or more to serve the needs of their customers.

“The four-day week isn’t for everyone,” he says, “and, of course, there are many vital professions where this simply wouldn’t work – healthcare and teachers, for example.”

The survey found that 16% of employers could not implement a four-day week due to the nature of their organisation and sector.

More than half (56%) of employers say they are not considering implementing a four-day week for a variety of different reasons, including being unprepared from an operational perspective (52%), concerns about the impact on productivity (43%) and worries about the pressure on staff (16%).

“Again, the research points to the importance of workplace flexibility. There are many other ways for employers to stand out from the crowd by introducing hybrid working, flexible hours and more.”

Overall, only 65% of respondents in 2022 believed the four-day week would ever happen, a figure which has now risen to 75%. Nearly all respondents to the survey (93%) believe the four-day week is a good idea.

The research comes after the official four-day week trial in the UK concluded with 56 out of the 61 companies who entered the trial planning to extend it. Eighteen of the 56 companies have already made the four-day week a permanent fixture within their organisation.

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