Imagine if your last day of work every week was a Thursday? Or, if you could stay in on a Monday and start working on Tuesday? Pretty great right? Businesses, governments, local councils, think tanks, and academics have, for quite some time now, been trying to find new ways to increase productivity in the workplace. One of the ways that this has been considered in certain parts of the world is through introducing a 4-day work week.

The financial times have recently documented a variety of firms that trialed this new working method over the pandemic such as the UK’s Atom Bank, New Zealand’s Unilever, and a variety of companies in Spain, the United Arab Emirates, and Iceland. There are even non-profit organisations such as 4 Day week Global who solely specialize on helping firms and companies switch to a more flexible working week. So, what is a 4-day working week? How does it work? What are its benefits? And could it work in the Oil and Gas Industry? Here at Onward, we want to detail some of the key developments in this change. Read below to find out more!

What is the 4 Day Work Week?

The idea and concept of the 4-day working week really gained massive recognition and thought over the Coronavirus pandemic. No, it does not mean that employees work more hours across 4 days rather than splitting them across 5. It is not a compressed work schedule at all, it is actually just reduced working hours. The idea is that employees work around 28 hours a week over four days and have a three-day weekend.

Although this seems like a distant idea that one can only dream of, according to Change Recruitment, there has been a process of gradual reduction of working hours within a typical work week since the late 19th century. Manufacturing workers in 1890 worked 100 hours a week and by the mid-20th century they were working around 40. This just shows that this process has been in the works for a long time! So why is it finally looking like a reality, and what are the benefits/disadvantages of this four-day working week?

A look at the Pros and Cons

One of the biggest advantages of this working model is that it actually cuts costs for everyone in the business. Employers can keep the office closed for an extra day, reducing their running costs, and employees spend one less day paying for commuting, lunches, and coffees. Another key advantage is a noticeable increase in productivity levels. The theory behind this, is that with the shorter working week, staff are generally happier and more focused on their job since it is shorter, and they have less dedicated time to it. Finally, with the new generation of workers, a four-day working week is poised to have a positive influence on recruitment and retention as the greater offer of flexibility and extra time off is one that is seen to be highly regarded by millennials.

Of course, it is not all sunshine and roses. A lot of the disadvantages to this are the types of things that come to mind when, as an employer, you are facing the fact that everyone is going to switch to working 8 hours less a week and your workload is going to stay the same. One key disadvantage is that this does not suit every business model, and this is something we will go into further with the Oil and Gas industry.

Each business has different requirements and projects and needs for staff so adopting this universally, by law for example, may harm businesses that simply can not run on four days a week. For the employees, holiday entitlement will actually decrease as they are working less hours and although they get three-day weekends, they may not be able to take those well needed 1-2 weeks off as frequently in the year. Finally, on the motivation aspect. Yes less working means more focus. But if Tuesday becomes the new Monday then will it just mean that unfocused hours of the day are now spread across 4 days and not 5? These are the questions that have been addressed in trials done by companies around the world.

Results from trials

New Zealand companies have done a variety of trials of the four-day work week with the government backing this development and providing benefits to companies that adopt it. Perpetual Guardian, a firm in New Zealand who trialled this found that 78% of employees could more efficiently balance their work and home life as opposed to 54% in the regular five-day work week.

In the United Kingdom, two weeks ago, a major pilot project was launched with around 30 UK companies who for six months will run a four-day work week. The project will measure whether employees can work and operate at 100% productivity in 80% of the time. Key findings from smaller trials in the UK have been that employers find that their people don’t “burn out” and that with the use of technologies to help speed up certain unnecessary processes, the four-day work week has created nothing but benefits for these businesses. They have however only been in a small scale and this big pilot will be a true indication of these effects.

Between 2015 and 2019 in Iceland, the biggest 4-day work week trial was held and has since been recognised as an overwhelming success. It featured over 25,000 employees and saw all of their working hours reduced by a minimum of six. It was done in a variety of settings including schools, hospitals, and offices. Both productivity and wellbeing were found to be the two factors that were positively affected by this an over 40% of business in Iceland stated that they would put in plans to implement this over the next five years. A result of this trial was trade unions in Iceland securing shorter working hours across the board in the country which signals that the movement is beginning to pick up pace across Europe. So how does this reflect on the Oil and Gas industry?

Four days of working in Oil and Gas?

Oil and gas is an outliner industry in regard to the norm for working hours. We sit with the hospitals and emergency services where we work 24/7. But, unlike a lot of 24-hour mass manufacturing facilities, shutting down and going home isn’t that easy. A large majority of the oil and gas industry that work in the field, where the figurative rubber meets the road and keeps the worlds literal rubber on the road, would not be eligible. Those of us that work in the office have seen big changes especially in the USA as a result of the pandemic, where flexible working was not nearly as excepted as in Europe.

However even with the added flexibility of our location, if our role is to support operations that work every hour of every night, the ability to switch off is not really an option. The industry does well with handing over responsibilities for vacations and on call personnel for weekends, but we are an industry that expects the 2am phone calls, prepares for the unexpected and knows that national holidays do not always mean you have the day off. With those factors we see a version of the 4-day work week being implemented in regard to your physical presence in the office (not being required) but, at this moment in time, we do not see the need to be assessable changing.