The four-day work week might be coming to your desk sooner than you think

Young managers are much more interested in the idea than the old leaders they are about to replace

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First, he worked from home. Today, the four-day workweek is disrupting business life in ways that would have seemed unthinkable before COVID-19.

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At least that’s what one might think of the headlines of the past few weeks. Last Tuesday it was The Landmark London, a swanky hotel in Marylebone, which said it was offering a four-day week, with higher pay, to its chefs.

A day earlier, a UK division of Japanese camera company Canon said it was considering a four-day-a-week pilot project for its roughly 140 employees and UK think tanks said they were recruiting companies for a six-month trial of the concept.

Less than two weeks earlier, Canon’s Japanese rival Panasonic unveiled plans to offer its staff a four-day option to improve their work-life balance. And before that, Shorter Week was being tested, planned or rolled out everywhere from UK Atom Bank to Unilever offices in New Zealand, Iceland, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.

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But four-day fans should hold the champagne as new research from Britain reveals that, as it stands, the four-day working week is far from widespread.

Only seven per cent of managers have started it or decided to, according to Be The Business, a British non-profit group set up to boost productivity.

It won’t be long before the four-day week begins to gallop rather than crawl

That’s a slight increase from five percent in February last year, when the group last surveyed directors of small and medium-sized businesses across the country, and the proportion who say they’re thinking about it. also increased from 17 to 20 percent. hundred.

Nearly half of those who don’t have a shorter week say they’re more likely to consider the concept than they were before the pandemic, but nearly 30% say they don’t. would ever consider.

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These findings are consistent with those of another survey of UK executives of large companies that the Chartered Management Institute commissioned this month.

Only six percent of them had a four-day week and although more than half said their organization was actively considering the idea, or would, a striking 73 percent said they thought ‘it was very unlikely that she would be adopted.

This is despite the fact that large majorities thought a four-day week would increase productivity while making employees happier and easier to retain.

Still, I suspect it won’t be long before the four-day week begins to gallop rather than crawl. Why? Because young managers are much more interested in the idea than the old leaders they are about to replace.

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Nearly 80% of senior executives under 35 liked the idea of ​​adopting a four-day week, compared with 56% of those aged 55 or older, according to data from the Chartered Management Institute.

This age gap was also evident in the Be The Business study, which also showed that women bosses were slightly more supportive of the shorter week than men: 64% vs. 57%.

It certainly worked out well for Rachel Garrett, the 40-year-old managing director of CMG Technologies, a highly specialized metal injection molding company in Suffolk. The company moved its 30 or so employees to a four-day week in 2015, with no pay cut, in hopes of satisfying them.

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“Retaining staff and keeping them happy is key for us,” Garrett told me last week, adding that revenue was up 25% since the start of the shorter week, while profits had jumped 200%.

She doesn’t think the four-day week is entirely responsible for this, but thinks it had a significant influence.

Intuitively, it still seems hard to imagine how moving to a four-day week benefits a business, despite the growing number of case studies suggesting it’s possible. But intuition can be distorted.

The once daring idea of ​​a weekend came about after the Industrial Revolution ushered in frenetic factory work that left workers in a state of permanent exhaustion. As British political analyst James Plunkett explains in his book, End State, progressive employers found energized workers working shorter hours, whose hourly productivity and overall output increased.

It might not be so hard to imagine that workers exhausted by today’s tech revolution could be more productive if the two-day weekend expanded to three.

© 2022 Financial Times Ltd.

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