Can a Four-day Working Week be Successful for Lawyers?
The Trial of a Four-day Working Week
Currently, a four-day working week is being piloted across the UK to measure if employees can operate with increased productivity when working 20% less time. This trial is being conducted by multiple businesses from a variety of industries in the UK, including multiple law firms.
There has been much debate surrounding the benefits of a shorter working week in the UK. However, it appears more businesses are now willing to consider this option. Despite this, we are yet to see whether this can work in all industries.
The Advantages of a Shorter Working Week
There are many advantages associated with a four-day working week. One interesting benefit is reducing costs of commuting, given that offices would be shut one more day each week. This can be advantageous to all commuters as well as protecting the environment.
Another potential benefit, which is likely to be the main deciding factor as to whether this trial becomes common practice, is increased productivity levels. With longer weekends on offer, many believe that employees will be happier and therefore more focussed on their job when they are in the office. This should in turn reduce distractions as everyone in the office will be more connected and on task, throughout the week, in order to achieve their full workload in the reduced time.
Additionally, the mental wellbeing of the workforce is an increased concern for employers and a priority for employees, due to the coronavirus lockdowns across the country. Therefore, a shorter working week could give people more free time to reduce their stress levels by doing the things they enjoy and spending time with loved ones.
The Disadvantages of a Shorter Working Week
Like anything, people are foreseeing some disadvantages. The main problem is that a four-day working week definitely does not suit everyone or every working industry. For example, in reality, builders, sales workers, medical professionals and many more, are required to work 40 hours a week. Therefore their four-day week could result in strenuous and long 10-hour shifts. This would have a significant negative effect on their stress levels, as well as their overall wellbeing and productivity. Would this mean less success for the business?
What Does this Mean for Lawyers?
With law firms taking part in this trial, it is clear that there are some high hopes that law firms will be able to achieve success from the four-day working week and some law firms internationally have already seen success with this model. However, there are also many people with doubts for its success in the UK.
Notoriously, Lawyers work long hours with very high caseloads, especially within Magic Circle and American firms in London. Therefore, would this change simply increase stress levels and result in even longer working hours on those four days? Would it result in them continuing to work even on their ‘days off’, instead of enjoying the benefits of the free time?
However, it is also clear that currently the legal profession has particularly high levels of mental ill health. Could this contribute to improving these statistics?
The Future of a Four-day Working Week
We are yet to see whether this will become a reality in our workforces across the UK. If it should become common practice, it will create significant changes across all sectors. However, we are yet to see whether these benefits would be positive for everyone.
Rhian is a Legal Recruitment Consultant who recruits Lawyers from NQ through to Partner level, across the UK. If you are a Lawyer looking for more from your career, contact email@example.com for more information about the opportunities available to you.