It is true that a four-day working week has the potential to deliver a number of benefits in terms of recruitment and retention, happiness, health and productivity (Opinion, January 24). But only for those who are able to make a success of it and if it can be rolled out widely enough.
The concept requires wholesale acceptance of the underlying philosophy of working smarter, not harder. If employees are simply cramming five days of hours into four (compressed hours), this isn’t going to achieve the desired effect. But that is likely to be what the four-day working week will evolve into.
Proper consideration is needed as to what it means for service delivery. Some jobs cannot, and should not, be done faster. Will this create backlogs? Will that increase pressure on employees? How will that affect productivity? At this stage in the game, it’s difficult to see how a four-day week could be successful across all sectors, and where the workforce is being split, there is the risk of creating a two-tier system and making some roles, and industries , even less attractive.
To make this a success, a significant number of organizations will have to show willing – and be co-ordinated. For professional services, it is worth asking how many clients would currently want to work with a firm that did not respond on a Friday. Once exceptions start being made they will soon become the rule, and before long a four-day week has simply become flexitime.
This is not to say the idea is not worthy of consideration. After all, who does not love the idea of working significantly fewer hours for the same pay? However, there are a lot of questions to be answered before it can become a working reality.
Partner, Addleshaw Goddard
Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK