Most workers say they could do their job in a four-day week

3 Jun 2019 By Lauren Brown

Employers urged to heed growing enthusiasm for the shorter working week if they want to retain talent

Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of UK workers have claimed they could do their job to the same standard over four days as they do in five, according to a new report.

The Meaning of Work report, which polled more than 2,000 full-time employees, also found the proportion of those who believed their work would not be compromised by losing a day was highest among millennials – those aged between 23 and 38 – at almost four in five (79 per cent).

Job website Indeed – the company behind the research – revealed searches for terms including ‘working from home’, ‘flexible work’ and ‘remote work’ were up 116 per cent as a share of all searches on its UK site since 2015.

The report also found that between 2014 and 2019, Indeed saw a 136 per cent increase in the phrase ‘flexible working hours’ in job postings in the UK, suggesting employers are listening to growing demand.

Indeed’s UK economist Dr Pawel Adrjan said the survey sent “a strong signal” to employers that they would have to take “an imaginative and flexible approach” to how they organised their people in order to succeed in an increasingly competitive labour market. 

“Time will tell if workers’ enthusiasm for the four-day week ever makes it the norm in the UK, but the idea has shot up the agenda of politicians, academics and employers over the last 12 months,” he said. “The demands of the workforce are evolving.” 

Jonathan Boys, labour market economist at the CIPD, added that the strain felt by skills shortages was often exacerbated by an underutilisation of current talent. 

He said: “Some mismatch is inevitable, but it is in no-one’s interest to have many people spending unproductive hours at work. Flexible working gives people the freedom to manage their time and output efficiently. It enhances wellbeing and builds loyalty: a win-win all round.”

Earlier this year, the Wellcome Trust scrapped plans to trial a four-day working week for all 800 of its head office staff, stating it would have been “too operationally complex”. The research foundation would have been the largest employer to make the switch. 

It was a blow to staunch advocates of the four-day week such as the Trades Union Congress (TUC), which called for a wholesale reduction of working hours in the UK last year after finding UK employees worked the longest hours in the EU. 

Its Future of Work 2018 report stated that a shorter working week and “more control over our time” had long been the promised pay-off from technological progress but was not forthcoming. 

Instead, it found 3.3 million employees worked over 48 hours a week, almost half a million worked more than 60, and 1.4 million people still worked on all seven days of the week. 

The report’s authors said: “We think it’s time to put time back on the agenda – and it’s clear that the public agree. When asked for their ideal working week, most people pick four days. Shorter working hours – without a reduction in living standards – should be on our agenda for the 21st century.”

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