Four day work week more important to professionals than work socials

Photo by William Fortunato

Almost half of professionals (46%) have stated that they would be willing to give up work socials and relationships with colleagues, in favour of a 4-day working week.

The findings come from a recent global poll by leading recruiter Robert Walters, of 2,000 working professionals across the world – and highlights the ‘not-so appealing side’ of the 4-day week to employers, with office relationships taking the biggest hit.

Workplaces have only just turned a corner and started to see more faces in the office – with that has come a burst of energy, collaboration, creativity, and productivity. It is a slight kick-in-the-teeth to hear that a progressive well-being initiative such as a 4-day week could have such a detrimental impact on workplace culture and business relationships.

Post-pandemic impact on work-life balance

According to the findings from Robert Walters Global survey, a staggering 89% of professionals would be keen for their employer to implement a 4-day week. In fact, a 4-day week now tops the poll on most desirable perks when applying for a job – with 44% stating that this would appeal to them most on a job description, followed by the ability to work from anywhere (38%).

Just 16% of professionals stated that they would take a 10-15% pay increase over the option of a 4-day week, and it seems office-based soft perks such as work socials or complimentary lunch or breakfasts, are less appealing in the face of fewer working days – with just 2% stating that they would opt for this over a 4-day working week.

Pandemic restrictions had brought the experience of working from home to the workforce, and many multinationals have introduced a shorter working week or reduced working hours.

John Mullally, Managing Director of Robert Walters Hong Kong says, “With higher awareness of wellbeing and work-life balance, some companies had trialed a 4.5 work week, while some implemented an ‘alternative 4-day work-week’ or ‘summer Friday off’ arrangement.

“It’s too early to say the long-term impact of these measures – but with 46% of professionals willing to forego socials and business relationships, companies should be mindful that poor company culture comes at a price.”

The hidden data

With half of professionals who would like a 4-day week expecting their full pay to remain the same, debates have begun on whether the post-pandemic workforce are ‘the most entitled yet’ – with fewer professionals feeling responsibility for the financial health or stability of their employer.

“We believe that workplaces should be held accountable for their employees’ wellbeing, but we also recognise that professionals have the responsibility to contribute to the success of a business, especially in this current period of economic uncertainty”, said John Mullally.

Earlier this year there were 60+ companies and around 2,900 employees participating in four-day working week experiments across the UK, Europe and North America. The conclusion of some of these trials has been highlighted by many as a resounding success. However, it’s also important to consider the potentially negative outcomes of a change in working days.

According to the trial result in the UK, 49% of the employees in this experiment reported no change in the typical amount of overtime they do – further 17% reported doing more overtime. Meanwhile, 22% of them reported an increase in burnout-symptoms. Only 2% stated workload had decreased.

Highlighting this data is by no means a way of pointing out that a 4-day week cannot work. Just as with every kind of trial, a balanced view of the results needs to be provided to assist us in understanding what does and doesn’t work.

There is a place for the 4-day working week in business but maybe it’s not the silver-bullet to increase productivity and improved wellbeing, as first thought.