The 4 day working week: is it a viable option for UK startups?

What does a four day working week look like for startup businesses?

In the UK 2019 general election, the then shadow chancellor John McDonnell stated that “the next Labour government would reduce the average full-time working week to 32 hours within the next decade.” 

While we’re all aware that the Labour party didn’t get into power in 2019, it hasn’t stopped some UK businesses from introducing a four day working week of their own accord.  The four day work week isn’t just a concept intriguing UK businesses. It’s an idea that has been toyed with around the world. 

New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian raised worldwide interest when it saw positive outcomes from its four day work week trial, while France has been working 35 hour weeks since the year 2000. 

However, the concept of working fewer hours while retaining the same productivity level is a hard act to balance. Introducing a four day working week isn’t about cramming more hours into fewer days – it’s about learning to become more productive and economical with your usual daily working hours. 

According to a study by Henley Business School, when done correctly, a four day working week can save businesses £92bn a year. This doesn’t just come down to the fact that people are working fewer hours – it also comes down to the fact that staff take less time off sick, and productivity levels increase. 

In fact, with the study also reporting that 64% of employers who have trialled four day weeks have seen an improvement in productivity, it’s to no surprise that 75% of business owners now think that flexible working is the way forward

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing businesses to adopt a more flexible approach to working hours and cut costs where possible, it seems businesses are open to four day working weeks now more than ever.

What can a four day work week offer UK startup businesses?

Having previously spoken to numerous startup business owners, including Nick Donnelly from WorkClub and Nick Coleman from Snaffling Pig, Startups knows how much it takes to start a successful business when balancing things like children and relationships. 

What we’ve learnt is that these days startup culture is more about ensuring employees have a healthy work/life balance than it is expecting people to be in the office by eight o’clock in the morning for a 12 hour day. 

However, this has to be balanced with the fact that starting a business is demanding, and often requires an all hands on deck approach that tests each team member’s ability to prioritise tasks and work efficiently

In the Henley Business School four day work week trial write up, Professor Karen Jansen Professor of Leadership and Change explains:

“21st century work no longer occurs within ‘normal’ business hours and demands on employees’ time are idiosyncratic, individualised, and are best managed by the individual.  What is needed is a new mind-set for how work gets done and programs that provide all employees the ability to customise and manage their work to effectively accomplish organisational goals.”

Evidence also shows that offering perks like a four day work week help businesses attract a higher calibre of staff and retain star employees of all ages. 

It also helps to build a symbiotic relationship between the business and its employees, meaning employees want to work well because they’re being appreciated and valued by the company that they work for. 

When we asked business mentor Martin Norbury about the four day week as a perk for startup businesses, he addressed the concern that employees may not adopt the work ethic required for a four day work week to be feasible. 

“If a company treats its employees well, then the employees will treat the company well in return.”

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