As thousands of workers have begun the four-day week trial, the global provider of talent outsourcing and advisory services, AMS, has warned leaders that workers could face burnout without the proper guidance and support.
AMS thinks employees will need support to adjust to the four-day work week to ensure they don’t overwork in a shorter four-day period rather than the usual five-day framework.
During the trial participating employers have introduced a shorter working week without a loss of pay across some 70 UK companies for six months.
While the initiative has the potential to boost productivity, wellbeing and retention rates and even act as a recruitment tool for talent after a better work/life balance, employers must manage the experiment properly, AMS maintains.
As the four-day week is designed to improve the employee experience while maintaining or improving productivity, setting and managing the boundaries for a shorter week and supporting staff in the transition is key to preventing overworking, which could lead to stress, burnout, and render the perks of a shorter week obsolete.
The potential pitfalls of the four-day week aside, there’s evidence that employees want more job flexibility and would make concessions for it.
ADP® Research Institute’s new People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View report, involving almost 33,000 global employees, found that nearly half (45%) would accept a pay cut if it meant improving their work-life balance or move to another industry to achieve it.
A further 60% of respondents involved in the survey felt their employer had the right systems in place to accommodate a four-day working week. In comparison, 23% said they have already been allowed to move to a four-day week within the next year.
Paul Modley, Director, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at AMS, said: “The flexibility of being able to work four days a week will certainly help create a better work-life balance for some workforces. However, this concept is new to individuals and businesses alike. The key hurdle to overcome if this is to be successful is the careful management of workloads.
“If staff are cutting their hours by 20%, but their workload and delivery expectations remain the same, employers could face a scenario where people are struggling to meet expectations and failing to take breaks or working overtime during the new working week in order to gain an additional day off.
“With the right communication and careful management, a four-day week can work, but without appropriate implementation, employees can become disengaged with a brand or even feel disgruntled with the forced reduction of days.
“In an economy where talent shortages are rife and retaining staff is a critical business priority, it’s important to ensure that any changes to work set ups are delivering against the needs of individuals and the company.
“At AMS, all of our roles can flex to some degree, so we have experience in making different working methods successful across the globe. It’ll be interesting to see the results of this trial, but the information that will be most valuable from my point of view will be the feedback of staff themselves, not just the productivity data from the businesses.”
To find out more about the four-day week UK trial, click here. To read the ADP Research report in full, click here.