Why employers must look beyond the four-day week hype

Lorna Davidson explains why a broader approach to flexible working is needed for happier workers

The future possibility of a four-day week has been filling column inches after the TUC proposed advances in technology, especially artificial intelligence, meant a shorter working week is within our grasp. 

The argument is that a four-day week would spread out available employment, thereby reducing underemployment and unemployment, and lead to happier, more productive and more loyal workers.

It’s well documented that the emerging millennial and generation Z workforces aren’t looking for a regular Monday to Friday job. They want to work flexibly, with hours to suit their lifestyles.  

While, for most employees, four-day weeks are nothing but talk at the moment, the key to having happy, productive workers is understanding their needs and desire for flexible working conditions – and, of course, fair pay. 

Shouldn’t businesses be able to allow their teams to work where and when it suits?

If your worker’s creative mind functions best at 4am, then allow that. There should be no issue for the parents in your team to work around school hours. There are numerous tech products out there to facilitate this, allowing companies to be a fully-functioning team, even if all employees aren’t physically in the office together. 

Research has found that, out of an eight-hour day, people are only productive for a few hours. Think of how much of the working day is wasted when workers are feeling a slump in their productivity. No employer wants their workers reading news websites, shopping, or even worse, looking for other jobs on work time. 

Employers need to look beyond the hype surrounding a four-day week and realise that offering flexible working conditions now is a key way to gain employees’ respect, and increase productivity and happiness at work. 

I recently conducted a poll on LinkedIn which gained a huge amount of interaction and debate. Three-quarters (76 per cent) of people said there was a strong case for allowing staff to work from home. Home working is about trust and comments along the lines of, “It’s less about the hours worked and more about getting the job done”, were common.

I was encouraged by how the world of work has changed. If you give people that trust and they appreciate the ‘perk’ of working from home, they don’t take liberties. As one commenter pointed out, if, for example, you need to juggle the school run, but you get the job done on time or earlier, what does it matter?

At RedWigWam, we have a community of 66,000 workers. We provide them with all the benefits of being fully employed (such as national insurance and tax paid at source, pension contributions and holiday pay) with all the benefits of doing flexible work, regardless of how many hours they work. They are registered with us because they want to be able to work flexibly around their lifestyles, but most importantly, because they want to work. We also encourage all the hirers we work with to embrace flexibility. 

Lorna Davidson is the founder and CEO of RedWigWam, a recruitment agency specialising in temporary, flexible and part-time work