May is one of our favourite months here at Kingsbridge. It’s not just the blossom falling from the trees, that first smouldering barbecue of the year, or the thrill of needing to get the suncream out again. There’s also the fact that May treats us to not one but two Bank Holiday Mondays. Of course, for busy contractors and freelancers, sometimes taking a four-day week seems like a luxury only available to those in a steady 9 to 5. However, the chat around the idea of a four-day working week as standard has been hotting up lately. Since its annual conference last September, the TUC (Trades Union Congress) has been consistently calling for a four-day week as a way for employees to share in the benefits of the tech revolution. And research foundation the Wellcome Trust recently announced – and then spectacularly abandoned – a plan to trial a four-day week among its 800 head office staff. All of which got us wondering: is the four-day week a good idea? And could it work for contractors and freelancers? After all, freedom to set your own hours and work flexibly is a major draw to the contractor life for many people.
The case for four
- Wellcome wanted to trial the four-day week because they felt it would offer “a healthier workforce, a reduction in sickness absence and improved sense of work-life balance”.
- Businesses that have switched to a four-day week often report a large increase in productivity. It seems with less time, people manage to do more – perhaps because they are more motivated, less stressed and less prone to procrastination.
- Smaller companies may find the transition easier to make than large ones, because they do not have as many different types of role to consider.
- The TUC argues that workers in the UK put in among the longest working hours in Europe – with comparatively low productivity. We’re working longer for less gain.
- There is a positive environmental impact of a four-day week – it means 20% fewer commuting journeys made!
The case against
- One of Wellcome’s reasons for abandoning the trial was that they determined it would be impossible for all employees to benefit equally from a shorter working week. In fact, some in back office roles such as HR, finance and IT, where work needs to be done to prescriptive timeframes and often urgently, would be disadvantaged by the move. It might depend, then, on how flexible you are able to be with your contracting workload.
- Working for just four days a week might force people to work more intensely or work longer hours to compensate for the lost day, which may negatively impact wellbeing and mental health.
- The CBI (Confederation of British Industry) has criticised the plans, claiming that they represent a restriction on flexible working.
Could it work for contractors?
- You are unlikely to face the same operational logistics as a larger company so a four-day week should be easier to implement.
- You may worry about lost business on your off-day – especially if you are strict and don’t take business calls or check emails during that time. Communication with clients about your new working pattern will be key!
- An extra day off will have huge benefits to work-life balance, stress and wellbeing.
- It may make you work more productively on the days you do work – there is an incentive to get more done so that you can enjoy that extra day.
- Of course, as above, this would need to be balanced against the threat that you overwork either in intensity or duration on the remaining four days in order to get things done.
- It may help you save money on expenses like childcare and commuting.
However many days a week you’re working as a contractor, you need an insurance package that is always working for you. Our coverage can start straight away and includes cover for previous work. Visit our website for a quick quote.