Call for businesses to trial four-day weeks

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BUSINESSES should experiment with a four-day week as they become increasingly flexible with working patterns, the Assistant Economic Development Minister has said.

Deputy Kirsten Morel believes a shorter working week could help increase staff motivation and boost employee welfare, and added that it was the next step for employers to look at, after many had introduced flexible working from home.

Last year, the Spanish government announced that it was planning to pilot a four-day working week, while research conducted in Iceland between 2015 and 2019 found that trials of a shorter week led to increased productivity and better staff welfare.

Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham said it was ‘not currently on the agenda’ but was likely to be a ‘topic of conversation in the future economy work’.

Deputy Morel said: ‘I would encourage businesses to experiment with a four-day working week and look at different ideas. The pandemic has made people look at the way they work, what suits them and I think the next step for some employers will be to look at working the same hours but in fewer days.

‘From the studies I have seen, the results have shown that it could help increase motivation, productivity and boost staff welfare.’

He added: ‘I know this will not work for some industries and so this would always be on a case-by-case basis rather than introducing government legislation.’

Murray Norton, chief executive of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce, believes there is ‘no easy yes or no answer’.

He said: ‘The debate throughout the world over a four-day week is nothing new and there have been several trials over the past decade within companies in Iceland, Spain and Scandinavia, with varying degrees of success. It would be very difficult, if not damaging, to implement across all sectors [in Jersey]. If one thinks of our tourism and hospitality sector, this is a seven-day-a-week operation and as with several other sectors, this could lead to services limited or an increased workforce required to cover. Given the current stresses in recruitment, housing and population management, this could further add to these.’

However, Mr Norton added that individual businesses could consider trialling a shorter working week if they felt it could be managed effectively.

‘This may be an attractive recruitment tool to would-be-employees, improve productivity and offer carbon-reduction benefits.

‘However, this would be for those individual businesses to best understand whether it would be an advantageous step to take. As a type of flexible working, this can be an attractive proposition, but would need careful consideration into how this is implemented and managed across a team and whether every employee wants to work four longer days instead of five shorter days,’ he said.

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