It has to be said, recent press reports on this topic have repeatedly focussed on one company - Perpetual Guardian, which manages trusts, wills and estate planning. And before you dash off to send them your CV it should be noted that they are based in New Zealand which is possibly a bit too far for the daily commute from the UK, even if it is only for 4 days a week. The company trialled the arrangement over a two month period with benefits for staff cited as being lower stress levels, higher levels of job satisfaction and an improved sense of work-life balance. Following the success of the trial the company has introduced the 4 day working week on a permanent basis.
There has also been some success closer to home though, with a Welsh company - IndyCube - transitioning to four day working over the last 18 months. Over that period the company says it has increased output and expanded out with Wales. But can this really work for the average business? Even the TUC, who called for the Government to take action to help people work less while still getting paid the same, are limiting their aspirations to it happening this century. And their expectation is that new technologies will have a big part to play in reaching that goal.
But if productivity can be increased while stress is reduced, can this not be translated into the 5 day week? After all, while everyone would like a 4 day week there will be many businesses who won't be able to facilitate it. So perhaps something can be learned from these arrangements that could benefit everyone - increased productivity for companies, greater job satisfaction and lower stress for workers.
It would be easy to assume that the increased productivity was all down to the carrot of a 4 day week. But the reports from staff and companies involved don't paint a picture of everyone going hell for leather for 4 days a week to squeeze everything in. Instead, the employees have been asked for ideas on how to make it work - they have been engaged in the process - and clear guidance was given on what was needed to be achieved. The benefits identified by staff - particularly reduced stress and higher levels of job satisfaction - are also mirrored by businesses with "well workplaces", even those working 5 days a week.
A well workplace has a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of workers, where healthy staff are able to be more productive. Increasingly, the benefits of a well workplace are being reported on. And there are now more and more resources becoming available for businesses to support healthier workplaces, from ACAS to royal support from Heads Together.
So, in addition to looking at "full time" 4 day weeks which realistically are not going to work for all types of business, should we not also be looking at how businesses with traditional working arrangements can learn from the success of the 4 day week arrangements to create healthier workplaces?