95% of professionals in favour of 4-day week

Just 3.5% of Irish workplaces have implemented or trialled a 4-day working week, according to research from Hays Ireland.

An overwhelming majority (95%) of Irish professionals believe the 4-day working week is a good idea and 81% believe it will become a reality over the next 10 years.

However, the number of workplaces that have either implemented or are trialling a four-day working week has dropped from 6% in 2022 to 3.5% per cent in 2023, according to a new survey by Hays Ireland.

“Since the emergence from the pandemic restrictions, employers have begun to reconsider the workplace environment”

The recruiter surveyed over almost 1,000 (973) employers and professionals across Ireland.

“While the number of employers currently offering a four-day working week is still extremely low, this research suggests that this may change within the next ten years with employees seeking more appealing and flexible working options,” said Maureen Lynch, a director at Hays.

The research found that 73% of Irish professionals would consider moving to a different organisation to avail of a shorter working week, a rise of almost ten per cent on last year’s figure (64%). Just five per cent said they would not leave their current role if the option presented itself in another organisation, while 22% said it would depend on the opportunity.

Amongst companies in Ireland to trial a four-day working week, 88% of employees said that it has had a positive impact on their professional life. The same number (88%) found that it was beneficial to their personal life.

The vast majority of professionals would see the positive benefits of an additional day off, with 89% believing it would have a positive effect on employee mental health and well-being. 59% thought that working one less day would be beneficial for organisational productivity, one-third (33%) thought it would improve employee living standards, while close to half (47%) thought it would have a benefit on talent attraction and retention.

Hybrid still a winner

Approximately half (51%) of all employers are concerned about its potential impact on productivity. Almost the same number (47%) said they were not prepared to switch to a four-day week for operational reasons, while 22% said they couldn’t consider it for financial reasons. 20% of employers were concerned the change could increase pressure on staff.

However, the option of hybrid working five days a week is preferred to working a four-day week with every day in the office. 55% of professionals would prefer hybrid working five days a week compared to 45% who would choose to work a four-day week with every day spent in the office.

Most respondents (75%) said that they would use the extra day for leisure time, including exercise and hobbies. 71% would spend time on life admin, while 70% would choose to spend more time with friends and family. 44% would use the time for self-development, such as learning a new language and just over a fifth (21%) would volunteer.

Employee wellbeing

While the introduction of a four-day week may seem quite a way off in Ireland, the concept has been gaining traction across the Irish Sea. Last month, the results of a six-month trial involving 61 companies in the UK revealed that 92% opted to continue working four days when the trial had ended.

Myriad benefits were said to include improved employee well-being and work-life balance. Employers too reaped the rewards from the new arrangement. Simon Ursall, the managing director of landscape consultancy Tyler Grange told The Guardian’s Today In Focus podcast that the trial had been transformative for his business. Further to improving employee happiness and productivity, Ursall said his business was substantially more profitable and all while working one day less but paying employees the same.

Society and the environment were also positively impacted, Ursall said. More of his employees participated in voluntary activities, while the company’s CO2 emissions plummeted by almost 30%. 

“Since the emergence from the pandemic restrictions, employers have begun to reconsider the workplace environment,” said Maureen Lynch.

“The switch to remote and hybrid working models has proven hugely successful. All professionals have embraced these new ways of working with the four-day working week becoming the latest idea to enhance employers’ differentiation from competitors. 

“At face value, for many employees, the prospect of a four-day working week is extremely attractive. However, what this looks like in practice may be dependent on the industry and jurisdiction.  For some employers, this means reducing the number of hours in the traditional 40-hour working week, for others, it means compressing 40 hours a week into four days rather than five.

She said the shift to 4-day weeks and other flexible working options may accelerate in the coming decade.

“At a time when the market has never been more competitive, the proposition of a four-day working week may present an exciting new opportunity for employers to differentiate themselves from their competitors, especially those that do not offer a hybrid working option.” 

Main image: Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.