According to Bloomberg companies in the world’s first study of the benefits of a four-day, 32-hour working week plan to retain the model after reporting an increase in revenue alongside a drop in sick days and resignations.
The organisations involved in the six-month pilot programme, which gave workers an extra day off per week without a reduction in pay, said they will not return to the traditional five-day working model, according to 4 Day Week Global, the New Zealand-based non-profit advocacy group which co-ordinated the study in partnership with the University College Dublin, University of Cambridge, and Boston College.
Data shows the organisations involved in the trial saw gains in revenue and employee productivity, and declines in absenteeism and turnover. Workers on a four-day schedule also were more inclined to work from the office than home. “The two-day weekend is not working for people," said lead researcher Juliet Schor, an economist and sociologist at Boston College. “In many countries, we have a workweek that was enshrined in 1938, and it doesn’t mesh with contemporary life. For the wellbeing of people who have jobs, it’s critical that we address the structure of the work week."
In the UK, Sir James Dyson argues in the Times that giving employees the right to work from home threatens the UK’s productivity. Government interference in how companies are run “will jeopardise the vital in-person collaboration and momentum they need to innovate and succeed,” Sir James says, adding “High-growth, ambitious companies will have to think seriously before they invest in the UK.” He says the flexible working policy “will generate friction between employers and employees” and deepen the divide between workers who can’t work from home and those who can, “creating a highly invidious two-tier workforce.” Sir James warns: “The government should survey the international horizon. Britain is losing the race, becoming less competitive, and this policy will make us fall even further behind.”
Dyson produces no evidence to substantiate these claims, simply asserting them as “facts.” There is, of course, a discussion to be had around the effectiveness of flexible working and the potential emergence of a new “industrial divide” between the “computer class” and the “always there” class. When technology makes change possible there will always be problems as we transition from the old to the new. It is the job of management to find creative solutions to these problems. However, arguments that “we should not change because change will only make things worse” have been the staple of Luddites down the ages. They rarely prevail.
See also this comment on the proposed flexible working time legislation from Lewis Silkin LLP.