Wellbeing and the four-day week: A global discussion

Employee health and wellbeing are at the heart of everything we do at CIPD to promote better working lives, says Mags Mc Monagle of CIPD Ireland.  

The global effects of the COVID pandemic emphasised more than ever the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance as people reassess what is most important in their careers and personal lives. One idea gaining traction is the four-day week.  

The overall value of the four-day week 

The four-day week is part of a more significant realisation by businesses that when their employees feel valued, they are more committed and perform better at their jobs. According to Charlotte Lockhart, founder, and CEO of 4 Day Week Global, a four-day week is especially important for employees with more home responsibilities: “Reducing work hours gives families more options for managing care responsibilities more equitably, so parents can value care responsibilities without jeopardising their income or career advancement.” 

Can a four-day week increase productivity? 

One factor affecting employees and employers and driving the four-day week conversation is burnout. Unfortunately, burnout takes a considerable toll each year on employees and businesses. The ever-increasing recognition of burnout’s effects on the individual and the company brings it to the fore as a driver in the four-day week discussion. 

According to a pilot study on the four-day week in Iceland between 2015 and 2019, more than 2,500 workers who worked fewer hours for the same pay found that the wellbeing of the workers increased. In addition, employees reported less stress, less burnout, and improved health and work-life balance. 

As a result of the 2019 trials, 86 percent of Iceland's workforce has moved to shorter hours for the same salary or the right to do so in the future.  

Innovation and leadership are the key to the future 

Margaret Cox, director of ICE Group (Information and Consultation of Employees), one of the first companies to introduce a four-day week in Ireland, also reports that staff are happier. In addition, the company has experienced an increase of almost 30% in productivity and sales since switching.  

Japan and New Zealand, the UK, and several companies in America have also shown through pilot trials that a shorter week can boost productivity or at least not decrease it. 

The importance of policy backed by culture  

However, if you want to achieve the benefits of a four-day week, the policy must be backed by a culture that supports its implementation. At the CIPD, we understand the importance of ensuring that managers and human resources team members understand the goals and expectations.  

The CIPD Four-day week report 2022 addresses the knowledge gap in employer perspectives with a view to informing organisations and policymakers of the challenges and opportunities that come with adopting a shorter working week.  

We recognise that we all have a part to play in this global discussion, and we encourage everyone to join the thought leaders who are paving the way in the conversation and exploring how we can create a new future of work. A future that benefits employees' and employers' wellbeing in a workplace where everyone can thrive and be productive.  

The voices leading the discussion  

Join the 2022 CIPD Ireland wellbeing seminar on Thursday 24 November to hear from those at the forefront of wellbeing in the workplace. We address how employers and employees are exploring ways to improve their work-life balance and why moving toward a four-day week is gathering momentum. Several countries are already participating in four-day week trials to gain insights into how organisations move to a four-day week and provide learnings for other employers. 

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