Third of firms expect the four-day week to become a reality ‘for most’ in the next ten years

A man walking a dog to illustrate the four day week giving people more controlA third of respondent organisations (34 percent) to a CIPD poll think the four-day week will become a reality in the UK for most workers within the next ten years. However, only a small minority of firms have moved towards the four-day week to date by reducing hours without reducing pay for their employees, or plan to do this over the next three years. One in ten (10 percent) organisations report they have reduced working hours without reducing pay for the whole or a significant part of their workforce over the last five years, although of these, under half of employers (42 percent) did so as a result of the furlough scheme.

Just 1 percent of organisations that have not reduced hours without reducing pay for staff plan to do so in the next three years. A majority of employers though, believe that a shift to a four-day week without reducing pay would depend on their organisation improving their efficiency and working smarter (66 percent) or firms boosting their adoption of technology (68 percent).

These are the key findings of a new report Four Day Week – employer perspectives of moving to a four-day week by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development. The analysis is based on a survey of 2,000 employers and ONS Labour Force Survey data on people’s working hours.

It’s published amid rising interest in the idea of a four-day week due to the launch earlier this year of a major trial in the UK, involving 70 companies who are experimenting with reducing working hours without reducing pay.

The report also claims:

  • Among organisations that have reduced working hours, the main drivers were to increase employee well-being (36 percent), decreased demand for products or services (32 percent), or to help with recruitment and retention (30 percent).
  • Just 1 percent of employers plan to reduce working hours without reducing pay, showing that change won’t happen on a large scale quickly
  • 16 percent of employers have reduced working hours in the last five years, with 10 percent reducing hours without cutting pay, although in almost half (47 percent) of the cases the reduction in hours was due to the furlough scheme
  • The biggest challenges for firms that had reduced hours were that new ways of working did not suit everybody in their organisation (32 percent), they were unable to achieve the same volume of work/outputs as before (30 percent) and that the task required someone to be present (26 percent).
  • 31 percent of workers say they would like to work fewer hours, but only 11 percent are willing to take a pay cut to achieve this
  • The majority of workers (68.5 percent) are happy with their working hours

Jonathan Boys, senior labour market economist at the CIPD said: “The rationale behind the move for the four-day week is a positive one, to give people more leisure time and improve their wellbeing while increasing their productivity to compensate.

“The current trials are an attempt to plug the evidence gap, help provide insights for other employers that would like to make the shift to the four-day week and make a stronger case for the benefits. Some businesses will find this easier than others depending on their size and sector. The major sticking point is the need to increase productivity by a whopping 25 percent to make up for the output lost from fewer days of work. This point came through in our findings with a majority of employers saying they would need to work smarter and adopt new technology in order to reduce working hours without cutting pay.

“The four-day week also faces a challenge as the cost-of-living crisis bites. People may very well look to increase their hours to boost their income.?Greater flexibility in work has the potential to have an overall positive impact on working lives across many sectors. However, this kind of flexibility will be easier for some businesses than others. Businesses should continue to listen to their workforce, look at the evidence and consider how they can pilot new ways of working