With 70 British companies spending the next six months trialling a four-day working week, it’s been a hot topic of conversation around the DMJ breakfast bar of late. Here, two of our principal consultants – Poppy Taylor and Connor Simms – hash out the finer points and offer their own views of whether a four-day working week is feasible in the fast-paced and unpredictable world of recruitment.
First up it’s Poppy, who’s arguing the case FOR a four-day working week:
A five-day, 40-hour work week might have been fine back in the day when a single-salary income paid to the breadwinner was enough to support the family and their partner was free to take care of the children and home, but times have changed. In a more modern world, with more single-working adults and a much larger percentage of people in full-time work, a four-day working week can reduce stress, improve health, offer a happier and more balanced lifestyle and boost satisfaction, autonomy and efficiency in work.
I often find myself getting home from work on a Friday and feeling overwhelmed with chores to do at the weekend. I live alone so can only hold myself responsible for the mess created. However, if there was an extra day in my week to get this ‘life admin’ done and allow me to enjoy the weekend, see people and do the things I enjoy, I am certain that I would feel happier. I also know I’d be less distracted at work and feel more motivated to get everything done within the four days.
With industries like recruitment, you have a lot of control over your schedule and meeting arrangements and most of your day can be curated by your own diary, which would make taking a day off a week extremely manageable. Ideally, a company would be shut on one extra day – a Friday or a Monday would be my vote – to offer consistency to its customers, just as they do currently with a weekend, when clients and candidates don’t expect to be able to reach recruiters. This would also ensure fairness for all the company’s employees.
When it comes to employer benefits of a four-day work week, all companies who have trialled and implemented the scheme have reported very similar findings – a maintenance or increase of productivity despite the reduction in hours, improved staff happiness, reduction in staff sick days, improved employee retention and impressive cost reductions due to office time saved.
With the UK facing a crisis of limited workforce as a fallout from Brexit, creating a work environment where your staff work less and are happier (recent pilots of the scheme show work satisfaction increases from 54% to 78%) but still provide the same or increased productivity for the company will help to both retain staff and attract new recruits.
It was only two and a half years ago that working from home seemed a foreign concept to most organisations and allowing their staff to work from home half the week would have never been approved through fear of laziness and productivity reduction. We have now seen that this isn’t the case, and perhaps it’s time we all stop being so scared of change and move towards embracing something that doesn’t negatively affect profit or productivity but does massively improve happiness and wellbeing.
Next up is Connor, who is AGAINST a four-day working week:
If others want to go ahead and implement a four-day working week then I applaud their decision, but I just don’t see it working for me and for the recruitment industry in general.
In recruitment, there are several challenges the four-day working week would throw up but the main one is flexibility. All recruiters will know our working day can start at any time from 7am and sometimes finish as late as 10pm (particularly when dealing with overseas clients). Whilst we are contracted to work 5 days a week between 8.30am and 6pm, these times are very rarely kept to and often we need to be on hand outside of office hours if a client or candidate has an urgent question regarding an ongoing process. That’s just the nature of the business. So are you really telling me you wouldn’t answer that important phone call if it was on your non-working day? I know I would. And would I keep track of these ‘outside of working hours’ calls and then recoup the time? That seems unlikely.
I just can’t see how it all works in practice. If everyone picks and chooses their day off, will there never again be a time when all staff members are in the office at the same time for important meetings or even just for social gatherings? Or if everyone takes the same day off, how will that affect the company? Recruitment, unfortunately, can sometimes be a fickle business. If no one answers the phone because most or all the staff are off on the same day, that could result in the loss of a potential customer because the caller will just move on to the next agency.
Fairness is also a big issue here I think. Personally I would want my non-working day to be a Monday or a Friday to give me that all-important long weekend, and I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone in this. But if it clearly doesn’t make sense for everyone to have the same day off, how does an employer decide who gets what day? The potential for deep resentment amongst the team seems too high a risk.
Unfortunately, recruitment isn’t one of those professions where one can simply clock in and out. At DMJ we’re lucky enough to get a lot of flexibility – we work from home two days a week, we can even work from another country if we want to. I feel that to then go down to a four-day working week as well would really be taking advantage!
Don’t get me wrong – I’d love an extra day out on the golf course each week, so if the four-day working week becomes a reality I don’t doubt I’ll make the most of it, but personally I just don’t see it as a viable option.
Another way to shake things up would be to explore the unlimited holiday model, but I’ll leave that for another day and another debate…