Covid-19 acted as a powerful catalyst that revolutionized workplace flexibility and normalized remote working. While the virus showed no signs of abating, it quickly became evident that a forward-thinking working strategy would be required to withstand the pandemic’s long-term effects.

In 2019, around 5 percent of the workforce reported working from home during the pandemic, and 46.6 percent reported doing at least some work from home. Since then, the proportion of hybrid workers steadily increased to 24 percent, according to data from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN).

This marked the beginning of a new chapter in UK employees’ work-life priorities.

What is the four-day workweek pilot program?

Optimally timed with the transition to flexible working, the UK announced a six-month trial to test the efficiency of the four-day workweek, with no loss in pay for employees. This trial follows similar pilot programs launched in Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

The trial aims to achieve seven ambitious goals to redefine the corporate view on employee performance and improve employee wellbeing:

  1. Productivity: If employees can demonstrate the same level of productivity in condensed hours, shouldn’t this edge companies towards a shorter workweek? A four-day week could motivate employees and improve productivity.
  2. Wellbeing: A four-day week can help [MB1] achieve an optimum work-life balance. More free time can improve mental health and physical wellbeing, which in turn, can reduce presenteeism and absenteeism. If employees are better rested and happier, this can enhance job retention and reduce burnout.
  3. Engagement: A shorter workweek may reengage workers by pointing their focus to tasks, performance, and productivity, rather than clocking in hours.
  4. Recruitment: The pandemic paved the way for flexibility to be embraced on a grand scale. Now that most restrictions have come to an end, companies will need to decide whether to extend this flexibility beyond the pandemic, arrive at a compromise with employees, or revert to pre-pandemic working. However, continuing to offer flexible working arrangements can widen the talent tool when embarking on recruitment efforts.
  5. Sustainability: If office commutes are cut short, you can reduce your carbon footprint and move towards a more sustainable and cost-efficient way of operating.
  6. Work-life balance: A shorter workweek gives parents more time to balance childcare responsibilities, in particular mothers. McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace report found that women are experiencing burnout at a faster rate than men. One in three women considered downshifting their career or leaving the workforce in 2021. Additionally, four in ten women considered leaving their company or switching jobs — and high employee turnover rates in recent months suggest that many of them are following through. Evidence shows that there are fewer females in senior management roles. The introduction of shorter workweeks means more women can aspire to senior positions without compromising work-life balance.
  7. Innovation: The pandemic put business agility to the test as companies were required to overhaul operations overnight to facilitate home working in the face of Covid restrictions.


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What does this mean for the future of work?

As 70 companies and 3,300 workers participate in the trial, it proves there’s an appetite for better work-life balance standardized by employers. Although flexible working is not a new initiative, the pandemic saw companies embrace this working style at scale.

In light of this, employers must pay heed to what contributes to employee satisfaction. As remote working becomes the new norm, let Globalization Partners be your source for expert advice and support.

For more information, contact G-P to learn how their Global Growth Platform™ can help you swiftly diversify your talent base and build your international remote team.

About the author:

Jon Munnery is a company restructuring and insolvency expert at UK Liquidators. He supports company directors by expertly advising them on how to close a company.


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