4 day working week - deputy Sasha kazantseva-miller

Amidst the global pandemic, another crisis is long in the making. Research piece after research piece shows just how much workers around the world are dissatisfied with their jobs. Nearly half of employees in the UK surveyed by Investors in People were looking to move jobs in 2019, citing pay, not feeling valued and work-related stress as key reasons. The CIPD Good Work Index 2021 showed a decline in workplace wellbeing and work-life balance linking it to the always-on work culture.

The situation locally is not any better. In a recent wellbeing survey conducted by Marbral Advisory across Jersey and Guernsey, 49% of respondents did not feel they have a work-life balance.

At the time of the seminal tax debate, it’s clear that we need islanders to be economically and socially active for as long as possible. Yet, if increasingly more and more of us are dissatisfied with work and are at risk of burn-out during our always-on careers, no wonder that retirement is seen as a golden ticket to finally enjoying life.

Come in ideas to redesign work. 4 Day Week Global, a not-for-profit established to promote the benefits of reduced working, reports that 78% of employees with 4 day weeks are happier and less stressed and 63% of businesses found it easier to attract and retain talent. 

It’s not surprising if you feel less stressed working less. However, the crux of the issue is if we can work less but retain or even improve productivity. Is that pie-in-the-sky thinking or reality? Important to note here that a 4 day week does not have to translate into a 3 day weekend. The principle of it is 100% productivity 80% of the time for 100% pay and so it’s all about a flexible work model that encourages finding efficiencies to allow workers to be more productive in less time. It is also underpinned by healthy company culture, trust, and technologies that enable remote and flexible working.

Trials undertaken in Iceland between 2015 and 2019, in which workers were paid the same amount for shorter hours, were found to be an overwhelming success. Further tests are planned in Scotland, Spain and major corporations such as Unilever in New Zealand.

Work less, earn the same. So how does the math work?

Trials undertaken report workers feeling less stressed, which leads to a lower risk of burn-out and mental health issues that may lead to time off work, sick leave and absenteeism. They also report having a better work-life balance and having more time to spend with families, do hobbies and engage in physical exercise which leads to increased job satisfaction, retention and better health. And it’s taking all of the benefits combined that leads to better retention, job performance, corporate culture and efficiencies.

Undoubtedly, retaining productivity with shorter work may be more challenging to achieve for certain industries than others. Yet again, examples show that the 4 day week is not confined to white-collar businesses only. Earlier this year, IG Metal, one of Germany’s largest trade unions agreed increases in wages when switching 3.9 million metal and engineering workers to a 4 day week.

Is this too forward-thinking for Guernsey? Local companies are already trialing 9 working days over a two-week period. The evidence is there. Who dares to try?