Four-day work week possibilities have been examined in a range of countries, with trials varying from showing promise to being deemed a resounding success.
The UK became the latest region to undertake a pilot, which was hailed as a “major breakthrough moment” by a 4 Day Week Global organisation that has also undertaken similar trials in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the United States.
On the surface, you could be forgiven for believing that the concept and subsequent results fall within the realms of obviousness.
Employees are happier, more productive, less fatigued and experience mental and physical improvements when working a 32-hour week. Who would’ve thought that? However, the issue at hand is far from simple.
The crux of the matter, as 4 Day Week Global’s Co-Founder Andrew Barnes explained to this latest issue of SBC Leaders, is not simply a case of cramming five days of work into a timeframe that is eight hours lighter, but lies with operating much more efficiently.
“Our method of work time reduction is not about squeezing four days’ worth of work into five”Andrew Barnes, 4 Day Week Global’s Co-Founder
“Fail to prepare and prepare to fail! We lead all participants on our pilot programmes through a review process before their four-day week trial begins, where they analyse work systems and processes to identify areas for improvement,” he said.
“Our method of work time reduction is not about squeezing four days’ worth of work into five, but examining how you can achieve your required outputs in an optimal way – working smarter, not longer. Being flexible on your journey and adapting where necessary is another key to success.”
As the old adage goes, work smarter, not harder. A quote that came to life for 92 per cent of UK companies, spanning from a local chippy to large corporations, that took part in a recent pilot.
Of the 61 companies that participated, at least 56 reported that they were to continue with the four-day week, with 18 saying the policy is a permanent change.
During the six-month dry run, 71 per cent of employees reported lower levels of burnout, with anxiety, fatigue and sleep problems also said to have decreased.
However, while such positive outcomes would not be felt by entire employee rosters, another potential point of contention regards the feasibility of applying such a concept across varying sectors.
While Barnes acknowledges that a four-day work week would be easier to implement in some sectors than others, he suggested that some variation of a reduced format is possible in every industry across all economies.
“…if sectors want to be competitive and retain top talent, they will eventually find a way to make the four-day week work for them”Andrew Barnes, 4 Day Week Global’s Co-Founder
He continued: “In any gradual transition, there are going to be early adopters and some sectors are more likely to move to a four-day week first. It will then become a case of competition between industries, as opposed to competition between individual businesses, and if sectors want to be competitive and retain top talent, they will eventually find a way to make the four-day week work for them.”
While take-up in the gaming industry is difficult to find regarding this particular issue, a number of moves have been made in a bid to alleviate pressures placed on staff and ensure that a work environment is as productive as can possibly be.
One step in this direction was detailed earlier in the year by Tom Horn Gaming, with the developer citing the need for flexibility between personal and professional commitments, in addition to heightened employee satisfaction, in introducing an unlimited paid leave scheme.
Before delving into the prime focus, CEO Ondrej Lapides revealed that the idea was explored for quite some time, with a “significant shift” in company philosophy and management practices being a strong prerequisite to embrace the initiative.
“The company’s strong people-focused culture based on mutual trust and respect made this decision easy,” he began.
“In addition, careful planning, transparent and open communication made for a seamless transition and now our people can enjoy time off whenever they crave it. With the unlimited paid leave scheme we’re looking at giving our team members more flexibility and freedom to juggle work and personal commitments.
“We support any initiatives that contribute to better work-life balance of employees”Ondrej Lapides, Tom Horn Gaming CEO
“We believe this move will significantly contribute to better wellbeing of our staff, whilst reducing stress and burnout. Ultimately, it is the company that will benefit from this action, with happy people and increased productivity.”
Asked if the group would consider an expansion to incorporate a four-day work week, Lapides first reflected on the “impressively positive results” witnessed through the aforementioned trials.
Noting the “fast-paced, forward-thinking” nature of the igaming industry, he conceded that a shortened work week is becoming “an increasingly viable solution” for certain companies, and could well have a positive impact on performance, productivity and employee wellbeing.
“With our mindset of agility and innovation, as well as easy and time-saving solutions in the form of new technology such as AI, we’re sure to be trailblazers also in this respect,” he said.
“Having said that, eventually a successful implementation is, however, down to some important predictors such as company size, culture, organisational structure.
“We support any initiatives that contribute to better work-life balance of employees at no cost to their productivity. It can be unlimited paid leave or a shortened work week. Whichever works better.”
“There is no doubt that the pandemic turbocharged momentum behind the four-day week movement”Andrew Barnes, 4 Day Week Global’s Co-Founder
Barnes picked up the mantle with other factors beyond a four-day work week coming to the fore, and touched on if all this is a sign efforts to improve employee happiness are overtaking pay in determining where people want to work?
“A comprehensive employment package is key to attracting and retaining top talent, but we have certainly seen people placing a far greater emphasis on their free time since the onset of the pandemic,” he said.
Shifting focus back to the UK, further results of the recently-completed trial demonstrated that companies’ revenue stayed broadly the same. In fact, a slight rise of 1.4 per cent on average was evidenced.
In addition, a 57 per cent decline in the likelihood that an employee would quit was reported, while sick days dropped by 65 per cent.
Concluding his participation, Barnes ended by looking at if workers have long since deserved better, and if this so-called ‘new normal’ that we have all become familiar with has simply accelerated the pace of change.
“There is no doubt that the pandemic turbocharged momentum behind the four-day week movement,” he said.
“It showed us that there are other ways of working beyond spending 40+ hours in the office each week. It also woke many people up to the importance of time off, and the impact proper rest has on the health of society. The five-day week is an outdated model and it’s high time for change.”
“Every change has its pros and cons and companies must carefully evaluate these”Ondrej Lapides, Tom Horn Gaming CEO
Despite this confident proclamation, Lapides voiced caution about companies being too hasty to implement such a drastic alteration to current processes.
While recognising that the idea could “no doubt” be effective in creating improved work-life balance, increased wellbeing and satisfaction, and reduced recruitment and onboarding costs, he also considered possible downsides.
The Tom Horn CEO suggested that a four-day work week might not be suitable for every business and industry, while certain individuals could prefer a traditional work pattern and might not be inclined to easily accept a change.
“Every change has its pros and cons and companies must carefully evaluate these before embarking on a new adventure,” he concluded.
“Therefore a careful analysis of the potential benefits and disadvantages would need to be conducted before deciding to adopt a shorter work week.”