Four-Day Working Week Now More Important To Professionals Than Work Socials And Relationships

Career Climbers / 1st June 2023

Say goodbye to work culture: Three-quarters of professionals (71%) have stated that they would be willing to give up work socials and relationships with colleagues in favour of a 4-day working week.

The findings come from a recent poll by leading recruiter Robert Walters of 3,000+ working professionals – and highlight the ‘not-so-appealing side’ of the 4-day week to employers, with office relationships taking the biggest hit.

Chris Poole – Managing Director of Robert Walters UK, comments:

“Workplaces have only just turned a corner and started to see more faces in the office – with that has come a burst of energy, collaboration, creativity, and productivity. It is a slight kick in the teeth to hear that a progressive well-being initiative such as a 4-day week could have such a detrimental impact on workplace culture and business relationships.

“With the trials of 4-days being so new to many organisations, the long-term impact is hard to ascertain – but with 71% of professionals willing to forego socials and business relationships, companies should be mindful that poor company culture already costs the UK economy upwards of £20bn a year.

“As with what we experienced with remote working and then the move to hybrid, any change in the workplace brings about its challenges – and a 4-day week will be no different; business leaders need to tread with caution.”

Whilst professionals would give up the social side of their working lives, only 13% are inclined to forego hybrid work arrangements, and only 7% would sacrifice training opportunities in favour of fewer working days.

Entitlement at its Best?

According to the findings from Robert Walters, a staggering 91% of professionals would be keen for their employer to implement a 4-day week. In fact, a 4-day week now tops the poll on most desirable perks when applying for a job – with 49% stating that this would appeal to them most on a job description, followed by the ability to work from anywhere (35%).

With half of professionals who would like a 4-day week expecting their full pay to remain the same, debates have begun on whether the post-pandemic workforce is ‘the most entitled yet’ – with fewer professionals feeling responsibility for the financial health or stability of their employer.

Just 15% of professionals stated that they would take a 10-15% pay increase over the option of a 4-day week, and it seems office-based soft perks, such as work socials or complimentary lunch or breakfasts, are less appealing in the face of fewer working days – with just 1% stating that they would opt for this over a 4-day working week.

Chris adds: “It is absolutely right that workplaces should be held more accountable for the wellbeing of their employees; however, professionals need to be considerate to the fact this responsibility goes both ways, and they have a duty to contribute to the success of a business, especially in this current period of economic uncertainty.”

The Hidden Data

Earlier this year the independent trail of 60+ companies and around 2,900 employees undertaking a 4-day week concluded – with many highlighting this as a resounding success.

However, when this data is combined with findings from the Robert Walters poll, it seems that possibly only one side of the picture has been painted, as a result it’s also important to consider the potentially negative outcomes of a change in working days.

Key findings from the 4-day Week Pilot Trail include:

  • Overall working hours only reduced by 4 hours – falling short of the 32 it was meant to achieve
  • 28% reported either working more hours, or no change to their 5-days a week hours
  • 49% reported no change in the typical amount of overtime they do – further 17% reported doing more overtime
  • 22% reported an increase in burnout-symptoms
  • 15% reported an increase in sleeping difficulties – further 45% stated that their sleeping quality hadn’t improved/changed significantly
  • 36% reported no-change to work-life balance – further 10% reported a decrease
  • 26% reported no change to work-ability – with 19% reporting a decrease
  • Just 2% stated workload had decreased – 20% reported an increase, and 78% reported no-change
  • 36% reported work-intensity had increased
  • 42% reported an increase in complexity of their work

Chris adds: “Highlighting this data is by no means a way of pointing out that a 4-day week cannot work. Just as with every kind of trial, a balanced view of the results needs to be provided to assist us in understanding what does and doesn’t work. There is definitely a place for the 4-day working week in business but maybe it’s not the silver-bullet to increase productivity and improved wellbeing, as first thought.”

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