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Four day week: Colliers London Offices' view

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On 6 of June 2022, 70 UK companies began a six month trial of implementing a four-day work week as part of a wider global study.


This represents circa 3,000 employees taking part in the pilot, which is running alongside similar schemes in Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The pilot is being coordinated by 4 Day Week Global in partnership with UK think tank Autonomy, the 4 Day Week UK Campaign and researchers at Cambridge University, Boston College and Oxford University.

So, what is a four-day week? Well, it’s exactly that, one less day at work. But here’s the interesting part, it’s 100 per cent of the pay for 80 per cent of the hours. Or perhaps a better way of looking at it is that it’s 100 per cent of the pay for 100 per cent of the productivity? Either way, productivity is very much at the heart of what the pilot scheme is looking to address, as well as employee wellbeing, sustainability, talent attraction/retention and efficiency.

The initial premise is that the current five-day week is outdated and risks becoming totally obsolete, particularly in the post-pandemic workplace where greater flexibility surrounding how, where and when people work is more commonplace. The 9-5 Monday-Friday work week originated in the late 1920s and early 1930s, with industry leaders such as Henry Ford introducing a 40-hour working week to improve conditions for their factory workers.

It’s fair to say that the world of work has moved on significantly in the last century, so it follows that organisations are at least exploring the possibility of introducing a four-day week. But what do people think about introducing such a significant change to our working lives? We asked two members of the Colliers London Offices team to share their thoughts on the trial and its implications for our industry.

Sophie Crosbie, senior surveyor in Landlord and Occupier Advisory, had the following to say:

“As an office leasing agent, my view is that it would be pretty difficult to say point blank that we would only work four days a week. In principle, I’m sure a lot of agents already do, but this will vary to suit their workload.

"As a more junior member of the team, my days are very jam-packed running around the West End to undertake viewings, and when the occasional quieter day does come along it means I can finally get to my emails and have more ‘desk time.’

"Our job is fast paced, meaning that if you weren’t monitoring emails, phone calls or occupier requirements you could lose out on potential interest in our instructions, or miss the opportunity to conduct a viewing which would result in losing confidence from our clients.

"I think there would also need to be alignment across our industry with clients, suppliers and competitors – otherwise you would end up working on your day off.

"A four-day week might also have an impact on the social element of our job, as it would make it more difficult to factor in face-to-face time with other agents and clients. 

"Also, it would depend which day was selected to be taken out of the working week. If it was Friday, this would have an impact on me. Friday is often the busiest day of my week, as occupiers seem to utilise the end of the week to arrange viewings.

"As an individual, I think a four-day week has the potential to bring better work-life balance, although you might end up working more hours in the days you were working to compensate. You might also see people take less holidays as you would be able to go away for long weekends on a regular basis. I think having less days at work would perhaps make you more focused, as there would be less possibility for procrastination.

"Overall, I think a four-day week would probably make me feel less stressed, giving me less time to put things off and allowing for a greater work-life balance in terms of free time, but it’s very hard to know until you’ve tried it.”

Mark Radford, director in Landlord and Occupier Advisory, also shared his views:

“Our market is quite ‘seasonal’ in terms of busier periods outside of holidays, so it feels like we need to be fully available and ‘firing on all cylinders’ to make the most of these busier periods.

"For our team, a four-day week would require some sort of rota, rather than the whole team being off work on a fixed day, so that we could be available to conduct viewings whenever occupiers needed to.

"Occupier agents are suggesting that Fridays are more common for scheduling viewings as clients view it as a more relaxed day of the week. I’d say our sector benefits from including a more sociable environment with both colleagues and clients, so we are more fortunate than some in terms of their being perhaps more social elements within our working week.

"With kids at school and a baby at home, a four-day week could alleviate some pressure in my own household, giving me the opportunity to spend more time with both my wife and the kids. 

"From observing anyone who already works a four-day week, they definitively lose out in benefitting from that day being free from work in terms of what they are asked to do at the last minute, and I think many would feel uneasy about turning down work on this day off. 

"Everyone has different priorities, and as a consequence a more flexible approach to working hours is perhaps more suited to our sector, which would still allow us to accommodate the spontaneous nature of what we are required to do for our clients and instructions.”

As a team, we will be closely following the UK pilot and are interested to see the results.

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Related Experts

Sophie Crosbie

Senior Surveyor

Landlord & Occupier Advisory

London - West End

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Mark Radford

Director

Landlord & Occupier Advisory

London - West End

Mark is an expert in the central London Office market, specialising in leasing; asset and portfolio strategy; refurbishment  development consultancy and acquisitions. He advises the full spectrum of investor, developer and occupier clients. With a focus on landlord leasing instructions he demonstrated  exemplary service.

Mark previously worked at CBRE, JLL and Montague Evans where he has built his reputation within the central London office market.

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