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A Law firm in Plymouth has recently become the first employer in the South West to convert to a four day week.

But can employees achieve the same results with 20% less of the time working in the office?

 

It does depend to a large degree on the nature of the role, how demanding the role is, and how streamlined the processes are to ensure that productivity doesn’t take a dip. In an era of presenteeism and long working hours, this alternative approach does seem to be a real ‘curve ball’. In the legal profession, for example, where client contact is key, and deadlines are strict, four days may not be enough to hit targets and to meet the expectations of Partners. Most managers and Partner would recoil at the prospect of taking a 20% hit in productivity. However, studies have shown the contrary and four-day weeks; it could be suggested that a four day week is beneficial.

 

What recent studies reveal

Studies have been conducted across different professions that demonstrate huge benefits in reducing hours to a four-day week. One study, where a company experimented and trialled a four-day workweek found it so successful, the management board made the change permanent - without dropping salaries.

A recent study looked at a workforce of just fewer than 250 employees that worked a four day week. The trial took place over two months; with a month to prepare.  Each team put productivity measures in place before it officially started; to ensure the results could be measured accurately. The results were as follows -

 

The outcome?

  • Staff stress levels lowered by 7 per cent
  • 78 per cent said they could manage work/life balance (from only 54 per cent pre-trial)
  • Performance didn't suffer: team engagement levels across leadership, commitment, stimulation and empowerment metrics all climbed post-trial
  • Increased levels of teamwork and collaboration as teams felt more willing - and better able - to help each other
  • Interestingly, the planning phase had an additional benefit in terms of employee behaviour: employees implemented new ways to be more efficient in the workplace. The productivity ideas included automating manual processes; running shorter and more focused meetings; combining meal breaks with work tasks; and, putting a halt to non-work related Internet use.

 

It is worth noting that with streamlined processes and the help of modern technologies, a full working week can be covered in four days. This does beg the question that if these processes are implemented to increase efficiencies, then it could be a great deal more profitable for an employer to implement this in conjunction with a five day week. Profit is key to the growth of a business, and this could prove to be a beneficial working model to a firm than employing staff for four days a week. I’ll leave the managing Partners to decide!

 

James Wootton