Last year, LACE Consultant Evan Wynn wrote a blog looking at the four-day working week, focusing on the positives and potential challenges associated with this flexible working initiative. Since then, the UK has run the largest trial of a four-day working week, which came to an end in December last year. Today, Evan is back to give us an update on the trial and what this could mean for the future of the four-day working week becoming a viable option for organisations to consider as part of the way in which they deliver productivity gains, as well as leveraging it as part of their employee value proposition (EVP). 

The recent four-day working week trial, which consisted of 3,000 workers across 70 companies and lasted for approximately six months, was conducted by researchers from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Boston College, and the think tank Autonomy. It used the 100-80-100 model, meaning that employees did 100% of their current work in 80% of the time, receiving 100% of their previous pay.

The results of the trial indicate that a four-day working week had positive effects on employee satisfaction, productivity, and performance. Employees’ work stress decreased alongside burnout rates, and there were marked increase in their physical and mental health. Caveated with the fact that a lot of the organisations are growing following the pandemic, there was an 8% increase in revenue during the trial. There were also significant impacts on engagement, absenteeism, new hire rates, and resignation rates. As you can imagine, engagement and new hire rates went up, with absenteeism and resignation rates decreasing.  

Does that mean all organisations should implement a four-day working week? 

The challenges that were mentioned in the blog posted last year are still valid. Organisations who decide to implement a 4-day week will need to think about operational business requirements, being available for their customers, individual preferences, the risk of increased stress levels for employees and maintaining company culture given that employees will have one less day interacting with those they work with (especially if hybrid working is also in place). The key is finding the right approach that works for your business, and that will get the best out of your people.  

The results of the study are quite similar to the results of previous four-day working week trials, which have taken place in Iceland and Japan. Interestingly, several organisations have already decided to make this a standard offering, and it will be interesting to see the results of the UK trial when they are published, and how they might impact what organisations can offer their workforce. 

Implementing a 4-day week – and the positive results associated with it – will certainly give the organisation’s Employer Value Proposition a strong boost – addressing a number of the elements of the EVP itself, particularly work life balance, location, respect.  

How can a four-day week support your EVP? 

Reviewing the EVP is one way organisations can be more creative in attracting and retaining talent. Being willing and able to offer potential and existing employees a four-day working week, supporting it and delivering it successfully, should deliver positive impacts on retention, engagement and productivity – all highly treasured given the challenges of the current economic climate.  

Given the cost-of-living crisis, talent availability and productivity challenges, organisations may have to do more. A full review of your EVP, and how it is meeting the expectations of the workforce can be a valuable exercise in times like these. It’s important to recognise and respond to what matters most right now to your teams, and how the proposition can best be adapted to support those things.  

So where do you start?  

Reviewing and setting out a refreshed ambition for your EVP is the first critical step. A full determination of that includes the voices and experience from your colleagues across the business – different personas, geographies and hierarchies – as well as the business context – its strategic plan, values and culture. Competitor analysis will add useful insights into the mix, and research into the factors that attract candidates and retain employees will be critical.  

Creating the value case is another key part of your EVP development. Identifying the key measurement data, and anticipated impacts of the proposition, set against the costs of implementation, will create a clear business case and determine the return on investment.  

Your EVP will continue to be a critical influencer for your attraction, retention, engagement and productivity, and responding quickly to changes in economic pressure and competitor activity will be key.

This post was written by LACE Partners. They are an exhibitor on the HRTech247 Consulting & Advisory Partners floor in the Partners Hall here.