Elodie De Fontenay

Insight Partner – Data & AI

  • Data Science & Analytics
  • Data
  • Workplace

18 Feb, 2022


How to do more with less

You can download our #5into4 infographic here

The digital acceleration in response to the pandemic has created something of a tipping point. Years of change happened virtually overnight with workers shifting seamlessly from the office to their homes. Things held up, enabling many organisations and employees now encouraged to challenge the norm and trial new ways of working which before may not have been deemed possible.

You may have heard about an alternative to the conventional five-day working week which is currently being trialled in the UK by a group of businesses and academia. 30 UK organisations, large and small, are currently in the six-month pilot.

With this in mind, we wanted to investigate what our wider external network thought about the concept and how it might, in reality, work in their organisation.

It was definitively a popular topic - our recent LinkedIn poll attracted nearly 1,000 respondents! Over 80% of respondents in hundreds of organisations thought it would be possible to achieve their current workload in 4 days and more than 65% felt confident that their respective employers would consider investigating a switch to four working days.

Yet, the four-day week is not a new idea. In 2019, Microsoft experimented with the initiative in their Japan office and found that the shortened workday resulted in a better work-life balance for their employees and boosted productivity by 40%. 

However, not all organisations pioneering this way of working have reported successful trials. Some have postponed their plan due to operational complexity, and this is especially the case for larger-scale organisations. Going back to our survey, longer days were seen as the biggest drawback with nearly 40% of respondents citing this as the biggest barrier. Line management, ways of working, and culture silos were also quoted - coming in at around 20% each.

How might you make it happen?

While the disruption caused by the pandemic has changed the way we work permanently, there is a silver lining on the UK’s productivity crisis. The UK had been experiencing slowdown of growth over an extended period, at rates much lower that its European counterparts. The shift to working remotely during lockdowns is seen as a key turning point as it forced organisations to increase investment in digital transformation, and according to the ONS, UK productivity increased by 1.1% in 2021 compared to the pre-pandemic level.

From a human perspective, we have seen our attitudes towards digital engagement evolve. We have certainly moved away from our pre-pandemic concerns of the loss of jobs to automation, AI’s lack of emotional intelligence, and inadequate human oversight of the system. In recent research, 80% of respondents agree that the use of technology had provided them with vital support during the crisis.

Today technologies are increasingly being entrusted to do more than mundane and repetitive tasks for us. In our recent survey, 12% of respondents cited a digital robot or automation as having the greatest impact on enabling 5 days into 4, 20% cited being data driven and 29% the availability of anywhere / anytime tech. Two fifths of all respondents believed that a combination of all three was needed to optimise performance.

It is becoming clear that the application of advanced technologies enables organisations to build an augmented workforce by optimising employee performance. The seamless human-machine collaboration, the new digital colleagues, will drive innovation and profitability. The cloud has been a key enabler breaking physical and geographical boundaries, facilitating self-servicing, with always-on connectivity making businesses available anytime, anywhere. Technology, as the enabler for change, has also helped develop and foster a culture of collaboration, bringing people closer, and break down workplace silos and certainly empowered people and organisations to envision a future of flexible work that places an emphasis on wellbeing.

In conclusion indicators suggest that for many organisations moving to a four workday week could be a distinct possibility, with potential benefits from higher levels of productivities to smarter and augmented operations, hopefully leading to improved customer experience, employee wellbeing, attraction and retention.

There is a clear consensus that technology needs to play a key part in enabling any change with the help of a combination of data-driven tools, digital colleagues/bots and anytime anywhere cloud-enabled systems.

This is just the beginning of the intellectual journey and for me, the 5 days in 4 week raises further questions. 

  • Could we push the debate towards a 4-day week on whatever days of the employee’s choice rather than fixed by the organisation?
  • Could we be moving towards a 5 workdays (or nights) week into 4 over 7, opening the door to a truly 24/7 world? 
  • How would some sectors such as health and hospitality fair? 
  • How would you measure it knowing that in our hybrid ways of working the boundaries between work and home have slowly but surely blurred? 

So, many more topics to think about… contact me if you would like to share your thoughts or investigate how this might work in your organisation!

At Chaucer, we have been supporting organisations to embrace new ways of working and advanced technologies such as the power of Data, Automation, AI and Cloud. We help optimise their business and make change happen by integrating the right technologies where they need them to boost productivity, reduce costs and drive efficiencies.

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