Three-quarters of UK employers say four-day week will be the norm by 2030, survey reveals

Most businesses surveyed agreed a short week would have overall benefits for organisations, their employees and the economy

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Three-quarters of UK employers believe the four-day week will be the norm in the UK by 2030, while nearly half (43 per cent) intend to implement one in the future, a survey by NatWest has found.

The poll of 3,000 recruitment agencies, SME employers and office workers, carried out in May, found the majority (86 per cent) of recruiters thought the four-day week would be a good thing, with 88 per cent of employees and 76 per cent of SME employers in agreement. 

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Two-thirds (63 per cent) said flexible working would lead to them being ‘better off’ in five years’ time, while 57 per cent believed the working model would positively impact the economy.

In the survey 60 per cent of employers said a four-day week would benefit employees by giving them better flexibility, and another 60 per cent said it would lead to happier employees. Meanwhile, 76 per cent of recruiters said it would lead to better living standards.

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Jane van Zyl, chief executive of Working Families, said the four-day week would be a “welcome arrangement” for working parents and carers amid the cost-of-living crisis, adding that employers should “think carefully about job design to ensure the most appropriate type of flexibility for the role and the person in it”.

“Our advice to businesses is to avoid imposing rigid working patterns on staff, who may need to work reduced hours across a five-day week, for example, and ensure that all roles can be performed on a flexible basis within contracted hours,” she said.

For SME employers, the prospect of a four-day week comes with a host of benefits, including increased productivity (48 per cent) and improved employee retention (47 per cent). However, 46 per cent were concerned that finding cover to complete workload would be a problem, and 45 per cent said reduced hours would likely lead to lower worker output. 

Just one-third (30 per cent) of managers expected an increase in business productivity as a result of a four-day week, and only 35 per cent of SMEs anticipated overall business expenditure to be reduced.

Nevertheless, two-thirds (68 per cent) of employers said a four-day week would have an overall positive impact on productivity.

Recruiters were more likely to say a four-day week would be a good thing, with 86 per cent reporting this. However, 33 per cent said a downside of implementing a four-day week was that it would incur costs in itself. 

A third (31 per cent) said total flexible working was more popular with employees than the four-day working week (26 per cent).

According to recruiters, the top benefits of a four-day week include mental health and wellbeing (87 per cent), productivity (77 per cent), living standards (76 per cent) and the UK economy (70 per cent).

Natalie Kerr, chief commercial director at NatWest Rapid Cash, said: “Recruiters clearly see the four-day working week and personal wellbeing gaining popularity among employees.

“But many businesses are reluctant to provide a better work-life balance due to increased operational costs. Cashflow is key when it comes not only to staffing but also to having the flexibility to adopt new models of working, and to make the most of growth opportunities.”