A four-day week is being trialled in the UK. What long-term health and safety implications could be created by its adoption in the workplace? Four industry leaders offer their thoughts.
Alice Gundavda CMIOSH
Health, safety and wellbeing manager, Cumbria County Council
Recent research suggests businesses can be just as productive if they adopt a four-day working week (Lockhart, 2021). Long-term benefits include less work-related stress and improvements in employee wellbeing. Working fewer hours could also reduce the likelihood of accidents at work and sick leave taken. Some research suggests a four-day week can lead to improved sleep hygiene and allow more time for exercise and healthier eating (Bashforth, 2022).
Some industries could instead provide flexible working arrangements; this may give similar advantages to a four-day week while maintaining operational viability.
Fraser Morrison CMIOSH
Director and consultant, M2 Safety Consultants Ltd
If the company you work for chooses a four-day working week, this would mean condensing the working hours into four days, thus extending the working day. As a result, a person’s working hours could be far longer over these four days – and above their contracted hours – if clients and suppliers are still working five days. For example, if a company is working a four-day week but a client isn’t and work needs to be done, employees may work that ‘day off’ or work exceptionally long hours to meet deadlines.
I feel everyone in a supply chain or industry would need to work similar hours and days to get the maximum benefit for employees. If not, it may add more stress for employees to work longer or work on the ‘extra’ day off to meet deadlines.
Andy Hooke CMIOSH
Health and safety consultant, WorkNest
The introduction of a four-day working week in many organisations can bring a lot of positives and encourage a shift in attitudes towards flexibility.
This is not without risks, though. It needs to be recognised that, in some situations, it could create problems – particularly in terms of excessive pressure to complete tasks in less time, which may manifest as workplace stress.
An organisation needs to properly assess the risks to make a fully informed decision and put mechanisms in place to support workers to ensure their mental wellbeing is not negatively affected.
Brett S Edkins CMIOSH
Head of health and safety, London Projects
I foresee and believe that four-day weeks will enable better concentration due to reduced fatigue, as well as improve wellbeing. This should, in turn, result in reduced rates of harm.
There will certainly be a difficult period during which companies adjust training and other management aspects to accommodate the shift to a more dynamic workforce and working environment. It is during this phase that the hardest work will be required to make four-day weeks a success – especially within the construction industry. But all is achievable with dynamism and open-mindedness.
Bashforth E. (2022) What health benefits could a four-day working week have? (accessed 22 September 2022).
Lockhart C. (2021) UK companies in 4 day week pilot reach landmark halfway point. (accessed 22 September 2022).