The challenges of the four-day work week

Working four days per week instead of five sounds great but the reality isn't always easy


Having the equivalent of a bank holiday every week sounds wonderful. Last year, a company in New Zealand recently conducted an experiment where their employees worked for four days a week while still being paid for five days' work.

It was so successful that they introduced it permanently. Now, a trade union in Ireland, Fórsa, launched its campaign for a four-day work week here. Fórsa, which has 80,000 members across the public sector, said that a four-day work week could maintain or even improve productivity levels.

At the launch of the campaign, Fórsa’s Director of Campaigning, Joe O’Connor, said:  “We’re pushing for this because we believe there’s a need for a gradual, steady and managed transition to a shorter working week for all workers in the public and private sector.”

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Sign me up, I hear you cry! But a four-day work week is not all funs and games (and lovely lie-ins). There are some important factors to consider.

Clients and customers

Managing the transition to a four-day working week while staying on top of your clients’ and customers’ needs can be difficult, particularly if they are working a five-day working week.

This can be managed by staggering the days people work, so your workplace is still open five days a week to your clients and customers. 

The holiday mindset 

We all love bank holiday weekends, but many people switch off early on the Friday beforehand, instead of putting in a decent day’s work.

Changing to a four-day work week means motivating staff to keep working to their full potential for the full four days. If this is not achieved, productivity will drop and the four-day working week will be a failure. 

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Workers end up working the same amount of time

The transition to a four-day work week might be managed very well in some companies, but not in others. This can lead to people working five days, or the hours of a five-day working week in four days, which means there is no benefit to the employee at all.

Reluctance to change

While you might think that the vast majority of people would leap at the chance to cut down their working week, it might not suit the lifestyles of some employees.

For example, creches or childminding services might require them to pay for five days anyway, while other people might be worried about losing part of their holiday allocation. Having every Monday off isn’t much good when you wanted to use your paid-time-off to go on a dream trip to a far-flung destination.  

While the idea of a four-day working week is fantastic, there will still be some issues to iron out to ensure it works well.

These are all problems that can be solved through communication and adaptation. If you are considering introducing a four-day working week, be open to changes and keep reviewing the process. When you get it working right, it will be worth the effort. 

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