- May 17, 2023
- Posted by: Hannah Ingram
- Categories: Pay, Reward & Benefits, Talent Attraction
Alternatives to the 4-day working week
If you’re looking to introducing a 4-day working week, or work one yourself, you’ll want to weigh up the pros and cons, what’s more you may be keen to attract and retain staff with alternative benefits and see how things progress at other companies.
4-day working week pilot
The recent UK pilot has been highly promising for both employee wellbeing and productivity.
The 4-day working week campaign movement is just getting started and the pilot’s staggering results is sure to send shockwaves amongst companies battling to recruit great talent.
However what’s clear from the study is that careful preparation, communication and ongoing employee support & metrics are paramount to giving your pilot every chance of success if you’re planning one.
If you’re keen to attract and retain great people but want to explore other ways to do this, here are some ideas.
11 Alternatives to the 4-day working week
- 9-day fortnight – This works as a watered-down version where every second week staff get a Friday off. It’s a bit more confusing for scheduling and for clients to understand but can be a happy medium with a 9 day fortnight.
- Take Flexibility Further – Flexibility comes in many forms, for example having core hours or not having a start or finish at a set time. This allows staff to take time off for school events without having to gain permission each time.
For flexibility in working hours you may wish to include parameters around healthy working practices such as not allowing staff to work past 11pm for their own wellbeing. In some cases people may work better at less typical hours of the day for example neurodivergent teammates who may than during the day.
“Nighttime feels like ‘bonus hours’ because the rest of the world sleeps and I’m able to focus without distractions”.
There does need to be a balance between the business and clients’ needs and that of the colleague, especially as extra flexibility could fragment the team bond as people work at different hours.
- Hybrid working – The method is widely used but not fully adopted yet with 25-40% of employees working from home in some capacity in 2022 with no apparent upward or downward trend. However, some employers are introducing more mandatory or expected days in the office, in other cases companies are expecting new workers to come in to the office for training. There are many options to introduce or reintroduce hybrid working with the right tech or comms in place. A recent study by The Times found that Hybrid working makes people eat better, sleep more and stay fitter.
- Better onboarding – Many people get the job jitters around new jobs as they battle probation periods and have less benefits than longer servers in terms of sick leave. They have an uphill battle to build trust and rapport with leadership and teammates too, remove these obstacles with ways to get to know the team and ensure line managers give new employees their time and support and make this clear on your career’s pages.
You can consider removing probation periods, introducing benefits earlier and finding ways to give newcomers a voice and clear progression path. People will also be reluctant to move if they still believe the ‘last in first out’ rule.
- Reduce working hours – If your team are on a 40-day working week consider gradually reducing this. This can be done as an efficiency project, get the whole team involved; how many hours are wasted on daily stand-ups which may not be needed in all cases? Or could AI or automation complete simple tasks, freeing up time? Ensure your employees understand these rules for when the reduced hours will take shape and make sure these are not empty promises. If you tie these working hours to efficiency metrics, ensure these are easy to understand and achievable. Avoid a situation where you dip in and out of reduced hours, this leads to confusion and mistrust.
- Wellbeing days – Extend sick leave to include mental health days where employees who feel overwhelmed can take a day off without judgement. However, approach with caution as wellbeing days is not a sticking plaster solution for a toxic culture which makes people take days off for mental health reasons. You can also introduce Employee Assistance Programmes where staff can seek external counselling and related help for free.
- Get that Friday feeling – Some sectors such as manufacturing tend to have earlier office hours Monday to Thursday and then finish early on a Friday, could you introduce an earlier finish on a Friday? This also helps with traffic which can be particularly bad at the end of a working week.
- – This gives staff flexibility time to recharge, take extended holidays or care for loved ones, on the downside if their home circumstances change this can mean they may need to take extended time, and the system may be abused.
- Extended sick leave – As with the above this can be open to abuse, however it gives staff extra comfort in knowing they can recover from an operation for example. It’s another worry to remove for them. It also helps with job retention, for example if they experience financial loss due to taking 2 weeks off for poor mental health they are more likely to choose to leave and you may lose out on top talent.
- Hours per year – Many parents struggle with childcare during the 6-week holiday and in many sectors or professions the summer is a dry time for the business. Therefore allowing staff to work extra hours at other times of the year (or providing extra holiday at set times) can be useful.
However there needs to be an element of fairness here, many small businesses struggle to retain staff because they have to ‘fight’ for holiday, for example ensure you aren’t being discriminatory to staff without children.
- Count days in results not hours – Allow people to leave after they have completed set tasks or targets, the pros here is that staff will be incentivised to work more productively. However, this comes with its own risks for example 1) Are the tasks or results fair, for example if a struggling sales person can’t make a sale outside their control is it fair that they should stay till 5 each day whilst others leave at 4? 2) Staff could rush their tasks leading to a drop in quality 3) Could this lead to resentment if certain staff members thrive under pressure but others are more slow and steady? A more informal way may be to leave early some Fridays as a treat, this is less useful for organising childcare but acts as a nice win, however employees may feel disappointment on the weeks this doesn’t happen.
If you’re struggling with how to motivate your team and need an insider view from a people consultancy with experience working with companies in many sectors to overcome the challenges facing overwhelmed teams and leaders…than speak to us.
Last Updated on 5 months by Hannah Ingram