Five questions you need to ask your boss about a four-day working week

A four-day working week with a three-day weekend. It sounds pretty appealing, doesn’t it?

With a pilot launched and news that such a working structure could make us more productive, your boss might be newly open to reducing your work by a day.

But before you rush into joy and start planning how to fill your day off, take a moment to check this change is as glorious as you’re hoping.

The way to do that? Talking to your manager about what exactly the four-day week will mean for you.

‘The prospect of working four days a week instead of five is naturally very attractive for millions of us,’ says Aspire chairman and founder, Paul Farrer. ‘More time spent with family and friends, focusing on other interests – perhaps even your own business – are things that many people feel they don’t have enough time for when working five days a week.

‘Shifting to a four day working week is a big undertaking for most businesses.

‘It’s also a concept that, for now, is largely unproven in the world’s most competitive economies.

‘So employees need to be realistic about other aspects of their job changing and make sure they’re comfortable with the approach being taken by their current or potential employer.’

To help us ensure just that, here are five questions you need to ask…

How will the four-day work week actually work?

First off, what will your working week look like? Will you have Fridays off, a random day in the middle of the week, or be able to pick and choose whichever extra day off you fancy?

Will your working hours change to make up for that extra day? How will meetings work? These are all things you need to figure out.

Paul asks: ‘Will your employer squeeze five days into four, close the business one day a week and reduce contracted hours or organise shifts so it stays open, but with less staff on duty?

‘Whatever the policy, it’s key that you have an idea of how your new week will be structured and whether it will affect your work. If you’re off every Friday, might you miss out on key meetings, customer decisions or training.

‘How will it affect the level of service your customers, whether internal or external, are used to? What is your employer or potential employer’s strategy for this?’

What are the expectations around productivity?

‘Whether you’re an employee or a candidate considering a role at a business that has adopted the four day working week, you need to get clear on the wider implications of this change,’ says Paul.

‘Working one less day a week is great on the face of it, but how might it affect your ability to meet deadlines, earn performance related pay, do more in less time and, for those paid hourly, earn enough money?

‘The fact of the matter is employers will be paying even closer attention to productivity levels. After all, they’re hoping to maintain or even improve output despite staff working 20% less. It means you’ll be expected to cover more ground in smaller time frames.’

What’s being done to maintain company culture?

It’s already tough to make everyone feel involved in the workplace with the rise of working from home.

So how will your bosses create a sense of community when you’re now seeing your colleagues for one day less than before?

‘For some, this won’t be an issue,’ notes Paul. ‘But for others, who are more motivated and productive when coming together as a team and love the social side of work, how your employer will keep this going is likely to be important.’

Will the pressure of fitting five days into four affect my mental health?

Paul says: ‘The obvious upside is having three days off a week, which is going to be good for mental health.

‘The potential downsides, which could have a big impact on the pressure to be even more productive, is squeezing five days of work into four.

‘Hitting targets if you’re reliant on others (who are also time poor) as part of your job, not always being present in the event of work-related emergencies and keeping clients happy could become difficult and affect mental health.’

Am I able to use this to work on a side hustle?

Swapping to a four-day week could give you the time you’ve been needing to work on a side hustle. But just make sure this won’t pile on more stress than you can handle.

‘This will depend on the pressures of your current job,’ explains Paul. ‘The UK and in particular London economy is arguably amongst the most competitive in the world. If you work in a commercial business do you think you can do in four days what you currently do in five?

‘If the answer is “yes” then a four-day week is great for side hustle. If the answer is “no” then you may find yourself needing the extra time to recuperate.’

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