A four-day working week: more flexibility or just a pay cut?

Whether it's the appeal of a three-day weekend, having more time to spend with family or the chance to pursue a passion project, dropping from five days to four is the ideal scenario for many. 

12 September 2018

The prospect of a four day working week, touted as many as the answer to Britain's productivity problem, is gaining momentum. As a country we already work some of the longest hours in Europe - and it's taking its toll on our health and happiness. So much so that the TUC is calling for a shorter working week to become standard in a bid to reduce stress and tackle unemployment. 

But let's consider the practicalities. How workable is a four-day week? As well as looking at the benefits versus the negatives, we've also considered other options available to you if you're looking to find a more harmonious work-life balance - but without financial stress.

Money vs time

Unless you're planning to compress your hours, dropping to a four-day week means you'll also take a 20% pay cut, so it's down to you to decide whether you can afford to make that work for you.

Clearly there are cost savings associated with a shorter working week - paying for one less day of childcare, for example. Reducing the number of days that you're present in the office can also lead to travel-cost savings - but this depends on how you commute. Whilst petrol and parking costs will go down, if you travel by train on one less day a week, you might find that you don't save much - if anything - on the cost of a weekly travel card or season ticket. 

Choosing a four-day working week can also affect how much you’re able to save or pay into your pension each month. If you're not clear on how reducing your hours will affect your payments, you can ask for a written projection from your company's pension provider which will take into account inflation.

Be strategic about going part time

Pick your day away from the office tactically. Wednesdays are a popular day to take off, as it creates a natural break to the week, whilst some people prefer to avoid Mondays because of the number of bank holidays that fall on that particular day. 

In theory, working four days a week should mean having 20% less on your to do list, but the reality might not be so straightforward. If you find that you're having to shoehorn a week's worth of work into four days (when you're not being paid to), it's time to question whether the arrangement works for you.

It may be worth considering a trial of a four-day-working week with regular review points. Think carefully about how you'll monitor workload and measure success. If you find that you're overworked, with too much to do in too little time, speak to your manager about the process for handover of work so you're not struggling. 

Other options

If a four-day week isn’t right for you, there are other ways to tailor your career to suit your lifestyle — for example, opting for compressed hours. Doing this means you still get an extra day at home each week but have plenty of time to get your work done and don’t lose out on pay.

Travelling to and from work at off-peak times could also be a useful way to save money on your commute, as well as allowing you to start or finish early according to what suits you best. Working from home on one or more days each week is also a handy way to save on travel time and costs, as well as allowing you to spend time with children while keeping nine-to-five hours.

For more on how a flexible week could work for you, get in touch today.