A four-day work week: the pros and cons
The past 16 months have given organisations time to consider how they operate, including the number of hours and days they require employees to work.It is no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has transformed the way we work in the UK, with many businesses having to abandon the office to work from home almost overnight. As well as this, over the last year we have seen the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the challenge of juggling home schooling, leaving many employers no choice but to allow for flexible working arrangements.With this sudden shift to working from home and an increase in hybrid working, we have seen more and more conversations around work-life balance and businesses questioning their ‘typical working week’.The five-day work week has become a cultural norm, especially in the UK, but after more than a year of change, is it time to rethink this approach and, if we do, would businesses continue to succeed? Or would productivity take a hit?We asked our LinkedIn followers: “Would you consider changing your company’s working hours to a four-day working week?”. With 919 votes, 50% said yes, but with the same hours, 33% said yes but with reduced hours, 12% said no, and 6% said they would consider it, but not at this time.With 83% of those surveyed in favour of a four-day week, there are many considerations companies must make when deciding if this is a course of action they would be willing to take.What is the case for a four-day work week?A four-day work week can be defined in two ways; the first is when an employee compresses their full-time hours (typically 35 hours) over a four-day period. And the second is reducing an employee’s hours (typically to 28 hours) over four days, so they are then able to have a three-day weekend.Many argue that, while the five-day work week used to be effective in the 19th century, it no longer suits the needs of the modern-day professional.With the evolution of technology, some day-to-day tasks are significantly more time-efficient, and with an uplift in office-based roles, we are seeing an argument that longer work hours do not necessarily mean staff are more productive.Notably, over the last couple of years, many countries across the globe including Japan, New Zealand, Spain - and most recently Iceland - have trialled the four-day work week to research the effect it has on its employees.Microsoft trialled four-day weeks in its Japanese offices and found the shortened work week led to more efficient meetings, happier workers and boosted productivity by a staggering 40%. Similarly, Iceland undertook a trial which monitored employees working reduced hours over a variety of public sector workplaces and found it to be an overall success, with 86% of the country's workforce now on a shorter work week for the same pay.In an article for the BBC, Will Stronge, Director of Research at four-day week consultancy Autonomy, said: “It shows that the public sector is ripe for being a pioneer of shorter working weeks - and lessons can be learned for other governments.”In the UK, many businesses have also trialled the four-day work week, and some have even made the permanent switch. Gloucestershire-based PR agency Radioactive Public Relations trialled a four-day week for six months and found the business was even more profitable and employees’ sickness days were halved.What are the advantages of a four-day working week?Large and small-sized companies trialling the concept have created an evidence-base of the benefits a four-day working week could bring to your organisation.An increase in productivity levelsResearch has shown that working fewer hours boosts productivity levels. With employees spending less time at work, they can feel happier and more fulfilled, leading to them focusing on their job when in the workplace.A large New Zealand business, Perpetual Guardian, trialled a four-day work week and found not only a 20% rise in productivity, but work-life balance scores increased from 54% to 78%.Environmental and cost-saving benefitsShortening your working week means that employees do not need to commute as much, reducing their carbon footprint.As we have seen throughout the pandemic, those businesses with employees working on the same four days can save on overheads and in some cases even be eligible for tax relief.Happier employees and fewer absencesAccording to mental health charity Mind, one in six people report experiencing a common mental health problem in any given week in England, and one in five agreed that they have called in sick to avoid work.Four-day work weeks leave employees more time to focus on personal development or spend time with loved ones. This will not only increase employees’ happiness, but can contribute to fewer burnouts, leaving them to be more focused and happier in their role.Better recruitment and retentionThe increase of hybrid working and remote working during the pandemic has led to employees wanting greater flexibility from their employers.The CIPD reported that the majority of people think flexible working is positive for their quality of life, and 30% of people think it positively affects their mental health. So, offering potential new and existing employees a flexible working pattern is a fantastic way of attracting and retaining talented professionals.What are the disadvantages of a four-day working week?Whilst there are benefits to a four-day work week, there are disadvantages too:"A four-day work week wouldn’t work practically because of the need to cover more shifts during a time where we are already facing staff shortages."Not all industries can participateUnfortunately, the four-day working week model does not suit every sector. Some businesses or professions require a 24/7 presence which would make a shortened work week unpractical and, in some cases, delay work - creating longer lead times.A nurse who wanted to remain anonymous expressed her reservations about a four-day week in the healthcare sector, saying: “As an A&E nurse a four-day working week wouldn’t work practically for us. Currently, we work long 12+ hour shifts in order to have four days off, which I prefer as it provides more of a work-life balance. However, while I know a four-day working week would be better for some of my colleagues due to childcare, the shorter, more regular shifts we would have to do on a four-day week wouldn’t work. It would mean the need to cover more shifts during a time where we are already facing staff shortages.”Unutilised labourA four-day week is not for everyone; some employees prefer the structure of a five-day working week or would prefer to put in more hours than a four-day working week offers.Likewise, some professions have tasks which simply take more time than others, which would lead to paying more in overtime or drafting in further staff to make up the shortfall (as happened in healthcare for the Icelandic study), which can ultimately become expensive.Final thoughts: should your business adopt the four-day work week?Although the shortened work week has taken off in many European countries and been successful for many UK businesses, it is an extreme approach for a company to take and requires a shift in mindset from the employer and employees for it to work effectively, so it may not be for everyone.While a more flexible approach on working hours is now expected from employees, a less disruptive, more gradual process would be adopting a hybrid or flexible working policy instead.Likewise, as mentioned above, the four-day model may not work for all sectors. What studies and data have proven is that organisations who are putting more focus on maintaining staff wellbeing, engagement, morale, and productivity are reaping the benefits.
Five things you need to know about pre-employment credit checks
It’s becoming more common for employers to perform credit checks on candidates. The number of workers being rejected for jobs because of bad debt is on the rise, and has become the most common reason potential employees fail their vetting test. To understand the what and the why, we ask Director of Reed Screening, Keith Rosser, five key questions about pre-employment credit checks.1. What is a pre-employment credit check?“There are a range of checks you can carry out on a candidate, and these inform an important part of the recruitment process. They help employers to understand the financial situation of a candidate – to help them reduce the risk of employee fraud – as well as helping to comply with law.”2. Why should employers perform credit checks?“Many employers would argue that assessing a candidate’s financial situation reduces the risk of fraud being committed. There’s a school of thought that the ‘bad debtor’ classification indicates the person may commit fraud in future. This is challenging as there are many cases where people with no debt go on to commit fraud. While predominately used in the financial sector, an increasing number of employers in other industries are performing pre-employment credit checks, such as healthcare and engineering.”"The number of people rejected for jobs because of bad debt has grown 7% since 2016."3. What is looked at when performing a credit check? “A typical pre-employment credit check will check public and private databases for a candidate’s Court Judgements, bankruptcies, voluntary arrangements, decrees and administration orders, as well as the candidate’s electoral roll registration to confirm their current address. However, it should also be taken into consideration that debt levels across the UK have risen because of economic factors largely out of the candidate’s control.”4. What can a candidate do to aid their credit screening when they apply for a job? “Candidates can check their credit reports easily online, but for many, it won’t have crossed their mind that an employer might check. Make them aware of the fact and tactfully advise that they should be keeping an eye on their financial health with simple things like making sure they’re meeting monthly payments in a timely fashion. As there is no standardised approach to pre-employment credit checks, requirements can change between companies – which is why we are lobbying for a universal approach.”"Candidates can easily check their credit with free reports readily available online."5. What services do Reed provide? “Reed is one of the largest pre-employment screening businesses. As part of a commitment to reducing risks and with our roots firmly in recruitment, Reed uses market knowledge and expertise to recommend a background screening package that best suits the needs of your business.”Get in touch today to find out how our additional services can benefit your recruitment strategy.
Top questions to ask candidates on a telephone interview
They may not be everyone's cup of tea, but telephone interviews have a lot of advantages. They are fast, easy to arrange and arm you with just the right level of information to begin whittling down your applicants.Of course phone interviews present challenges too. Mostly arising from the fact that you can't see the person you are talking to. Here's a primer on the kind of questions you should ask to get the best out of your phone interviews.Keep things simple...It's important not to get carried away with telephone interviews. Remember they are intended as a screening measure to decide who to invite for a face-face interview. You don't need your candidate's entire life story. Simple questions are the best policy.Candidates can often be nervous, which can make for an uncomfortable conversation where you fail to get the insight you need on your candidate. Put interviewees at ease by introducing yourself, explaining how long the interview will last and telling them how it will be structured.What type of questions should you ask?Remember to keep things simple. The lack of visual interaction means that phone interviews are not suited to complex questions that require lengthy answers. Of course, you want your candidates to be thorough with their answers - but don't attempt to ask anything too brow-furrowing.Questions should be geared to find out more about the applicant - expanding on the information supplied on a CV and cover letter and assessing whether their professional experience is suited to the role. Here are our tips for the best phone interview questions to ask candidates.1. What made you apply for this position?Does your candidate sound like they want the job? Look for a passionate answer. You want a candidate who really cares about getting hired by you, rather than someone who sounds indifferent and apathetic. Genuine enthusiasm shows that your candidate believes they have what it takes to succeed in the role.2. Screening questionsScreening questions allow you to gauge whether an applicant has the essential minimum experience or skills required for the role - such as expertise with a certain piece of software or a key qualification. Example screening questions might be:Are you willing to travel?Do you have a clear driving license?Do you have PRINCE2 certification?Screening questions will always be determined by the type of role you are recruiting for - and should be led by the job description. They are a simple way to make sure no unsuitable applicants make it through to an in-person interview and can be as simple as yes/no questions.3. What experience do you have that will help you succeed in this role?Look for evidence that the applicant has studied the job description. They should provide concrete examples that prove they have the experience required. Ideally their answers will also show how they have applied their knowledge/experience to provide tangible, measurable results.4. Why are you leaving your current job/Why did you leave your previous job?If your candidate launches a full scale diatribe about how much they dislike their current employer, it should probably set your alarm bells ringing. Seek out candidates who are hungry for a fresh challenge or who have been waiting for an opening in this particular field or - even better - with this organisation.5. What challenges are you looking for in a post?6. What is important to you from a job?7. How would you describe your approach to work?This set of questions is great for finding out more about the professional mindset of your applicant. How ambitious are they? Are they looking for professional development? What's their self-discipline like? Listen carefully to how they structure their answers and look for similarities with the person specification document.8. What motivates you?9. What type of work environment do you perform best in?These questions allow you to assess how well the candidate will fit with your organisation's environment. Do they need a lot of assistance or are they self-starters? Do they prefer working alone or are they great collaborators? Sometimes individuals simply aren't suited to certain working environments, no matter how talented they are.10. What are your hobbies outside of work?It can be easy to forget that your candidate is a person first and a professional second. Look for signs that the person on the end of the line will click with other members of the team.11. Do you have any questions?It's important to field any queries your candidate may have, whether about the job or the recruitment process. Once you have answered any questions, close the interview by thanking the candidate for their time and giving them your contact details - they will appreciate being able to get in touch should they think of any further questions.Getting the information you need from telephone interviews is about keeping things simple and looking for evidence that your candidates have the essentials required for the role. Come the face-to-face interviews you will have saved a lot of time by filtering out unsuitable applicants, meaning less time asking basic questions and more time deep-diving into the people behind the CVs. Just the way it should be.Looking to recruit? Contact your local Reed office.