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17th October, 2019

A shorter working week: Is it a good idea?

who For the vast majority of us in the UK, the working week consists of around 37 to 40 hours per week. Even if you work shifts over evenings and weekends, it’s likely that your hours come in at roughly the same amount before overtime. The 9-to-5 is the accepted working life for most people. But recently there has been more suggestion that a shorter working week could have benefits both for workers and their employers. 

The introduction of the current system

Having a weekend and set working hours hasn’t always been the case. Union movements in Australia, America and the UK won the right to limit working hours. This was to counter the vast strain mass industrialisation had put on the world’s workers. The common argument was that a rested workforce was more productive. And it’s this argument that has surfaced when MPs and Thinktanks have started to suggest another reduction might be worth considering.

In the UK we currently work some of the longest hours in Europe, and have the fewest national holidays. There is also a huge problem with employees taking sick days for work-related stress, anxiety or depression. In fact, in 2017-18 these reason accounted for 57% of all sick days. Numerous studies have shown that, if staff have more time away from work to recover and recuperate, they will perform better in the workplace. Inevitably, this will also result in less sick days.

A four day week perhaps sounds like a terrifying concept, both to the working population and to the employer themselves. However, productivity is not just about the number of working hours. It also has a direct correlation to each workers’ well being and overall health. A happy, healthy worker is a productive worker.

Challenging the norm

There are numerous businesses across various sectors in the UK trialling shorter working hours currently. With mental health now at the top of the agenda, there is a real drive for a marked improvement on people’s health and a better work-life balance all round. 

Every company is different of course, and so only you will know whether a reduced week is the right decision for you. If you are a business owner or senior manager, take a moment to look at your workforce and honestly ask yourself if they are the most productive they can be. Look at the sickness records and general performance across your team. Are there signs that people could be burnt out? 

Adapting to a different way of working is always challenging, and if you decide to take the plunge your first job will be getting everyone on board. The current workplace rules are deeply ingrained, so you may have to start small. Simply offering more flexibility and a more relaxed attitude to working hours may make a huge difference.

Raise the issue…

If you’re reading this blog post as a worker and thinking “my company would NEVER go for that!”, have you asked them? Raise the question with a senior manager or perhaps HR and test the water. It might be something they’re already considering. Or it might be something that has not even been suggested. Whichever it is, if you can demonstrate that less hours will mean more work is completed overall, your bosses would be crazy not to at least discuss it. 

And, if your current employer isn’t interested, we know there are a lot of businesses out there who will be! There are already employers offering flexible or reduced hours, fantastic benefits and more. Get in touch and we’ll tell you all about them!


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