From education to employment

Workers want more flexibility over how and when they work, new data suggests

woman sat at desk

According to a new report by ADP exploring employees’ attitudes towards the current world of work, six-in-ten (60%) UK workers would like more flexibility as to when they work, such as condensing hours into a four-day week. This number increased to two-thirds (67%) in Greater London.

Mental health: work is suffering

This desire for great flexibility comes at a time when there is a mental health ticking timebomb happening in offices up and down the land. Over half (51%) of men and 45% of women admit that their work us suffering due to their poor mental health. This is leading to over a quarter (29%) of workers actively trying to change their job and/or move into another industry.

Salary isn’t all that matters, flexibility is

Although pay remains a priority for many workers, almost half (45%) admit they would accept a pay cut if it meant improving their work-life balance, this rises to 64% in Greater London. Similarly, four-in-ten (40%) workers – rising to 55% in Greater London – would take a pay cut if it allowed them to have total flexibility over when they work,. Further, 40% – rising to 57% in Greater London – would also be willing to take a pay cut if it would guarantee flexibility over the location they could work (i.e., remotely, or to split time between home and the office).

Yet, the preference for most (60%) workers would be to get more flexibility as to when they work but keeping the same number of hours they work during the week. For example, to transition from a traditional 40-hour five day working week towards four working days over 10 hours each.

“Not so long ago, the move towards a four-day week might have been laughed off: now it merits serious consideration. Especially if granting requests for higher wages is not a viable option,” says Sirsha Halder, General Manager UK & Ireland, ADP.

“It is important that employers sit up and take notice. In today’s tight labour market, maintaining a happy and stable workforce is paramount. It’s clear that hybrid work and the desire for flexibility after two years of working from home is not going away – in fact, it’s growing in momentum.”

Debates over the length of the workweek are nothing new. Prior to the 1920s, six days weeks were the norm. It wasn’t until 1926 and The Ford Motor Company that the Monday-to-Friday pattern we are familiar with took hold.

Systems need to be in place to make four-day week work

To truly achieve the efficiencies to make a four-day work week viable, new tools and operating practices often need to be introduced. The good news is that six-in-ten (60%) respondents to our survey felt that their employer has got all the right systems in place to accommodate a 4-day working week. In fact, almost a quarter (23%) said that they have already been given the opportunity to move to a 4-day working week within the next 12 months.

“Retaining staff doesn’t just come from paying the best wages. Rather, our research suggests that flexibility is now the most sought-after component. However, when staff ask for flexibility, the emphasis is less on location and more so on when – and how – they work. It is encouraging that so many are embracing the four-day working week and are providing staff with the work-life balance that they crave,” adds Halder.

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