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

Whether it’s the appeal of getting stuck into a three-day weekend, being available to take care of your young family or spending more time on passion projects, dropping from five to four days at work each week is the stuff of dreams for many of us.

12 September 2018

A leading trade union, the TUC, called for a four day working week as standard this week and a leading UK doctor recently said that as a country we really should make the change in order to reduce stress, help address medical conditions and tackle unemployment.

However, how workable is a four-day week in practice? We’ve looked at the benefits versus the negatives, and what other options there are when it comes to finding a harmonious work-life balance without creating financial stress.

Money vs time

By dropping to a four-day week you’ll also take a 20% pay cut, so you’ll need to assess whether you can afford the change. However, the amount of money saved by being able to provide your own childcare (for example) could result in an overall saving. Also, taking a pay cut via going down to four days a week could, handily, result in you becoming eligible for child benefits or working tax credits.

Cutting down on days in the office can also lead to substantial travel-cost savings; driving to and from your workplace four days a week rather than five makes a big difference in petrol costs. However, travelling by train for one less day each week may not prove cheaper, as individual tickets are likely to be more expensive than a season ticket.

Choosing a four-day working week can also, however, affect how much you’re able to save or pay into your pension each month. If you’re unsure of the numbers, you can request a written projection from your company’s pension provider which will take inflation into account.

Be strategic about going part time

Pick your day away from the office tactically. An increasing number of senior employees across a range of industries are choosing to take Wednesdays off, claiming this mid-week break feels more manageable than losing Fridays. This is particularly useful if you’re looking to take time off to be with your family; not working Wednesdays means you’re only away from your children for two days at a time, rather than four.

In theory, working four days should mean having 20% less on your to do list, but the reality might not be so straightforward. If in reality you will be fitting a week’s worth of work into four days, is it worth it if you’re not getting paid to do so?

It may be worth suggesting it as a trial to your employer and agreeing regular review points, how will you track and monitor your work and measure success? For example could you do compare time sheets before and during the trial. If you are in fact just completing 5 days work over 4 days, it's important you raise that with your manager, either asking for more pay (perhaps negotiating an additional 10%, rather than the full 20%) or for someone to handover work to, so that you aren't overworked. Our advice on how to talk to your manager about flexible working should help you prepare.

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 fares, 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.