The 4 Day Work Week: The Effect on Manufacturing

There’s recently been an influx of stories, reports, and blogging activity surrounding the popularity of a four-day working week.  

That’s no surprise, really, is it? A four-day work week sounds like heaven for most of us. But it also sounds entirely unrealistic to most of us!  

While Brits tend to work the longest hours in Europe, it’s become evident that busy schedules often produce nothing more than miserable workers and undue stress. If you’ve ever been in that position yourself, you’ll be aware that unmotivated employees usually produce subpar results, too. 

So, working yourself to the bone simply doesn’t make sense in the modern world. 

This is why some manufacturing firms are opting to pay their staff a full-time wage to work four-day work weeks, in the hope that this will increase productivity, improve their wellbeing, and create a happier workforce. 

For the manufacturing industry, there’s a long way to go before this new, shorter schedule becomes universally accepted. Could it just be the magical solution we’ve all been searching for? 


Skilled labour is limited  

For the manufacturing industry, the younger generation of skilled workers is seemingly thinning. If you’ve conducted any form of recruitment in the sector recently, you’ll be acutely aware of how hard it is to find the best possible team members. 

Due to issues such as the widening of skill gaps, long working hours, and lower-quality applicants, manufacturers are finding themselves under pressure when it comes to finding reliable, skilled labour.   

These days, organisations must be more creative in their recruitment efforts. More importantly, they need to focus on delivering employee benefits that actually mean something, and not just a list of carbon-copy ‘perks’ that have been passed around the industry for years.  

Offering a flexible work schedule might be one of the most effective, non-traditional benefits used to attract workers. Indeed, if you speak to most new entrants to the industry these days, they’ll almost certainly expect something that’s more dynamic than the typical nine-to-five or ‘earlies’/’lates’ shift patterns. 


Attracting younger talent 

Finding the perfect work-life balance has become essential for our younger generation of workers, with most of the new, young talent striving for flexibility and wellbeing.  

There’s no doubt that the concept of a four-day working week would attract this flexible young talent. But, more importantly, that talent would invariably deliver a measurable return in your recruitment investment by working to the best of their ability, thus raising your production standards and overall product quality. 

Giving your employees extra time to enjoy their extra day off and relax with their families and friends should result in a much more productive, happier working environment; not to mention the potential for positive improvement in employee mental health as a result.  


It will force us to move towards automation 

The four-day working week isn’t a perfect strategy. Certainly, for specific types of business, it can cause problems which make it a questionable tactic.  

With industries such as manufacturing - in which employees are paid to create a physical product that takes a set amount of time to complete - reducing working hours could mean that projects are completed at a much slower pace than if the full five working days were being utilised.  

However, this problem can be solved – it just relies on a progress approach towards automation. 

To make up for the loss of manufacturing hours, automation is a smart way to maximise efficiency in the areas that are losing out; especially if these areas involve simple, menial tasks that could easily be carried out by a robot or machine learning-driven piece of software. 


Automation frees up valuable time 

Automation offers so many benefits, but one of the most compelling is that, while machines can take over simple administrative tasks, the human workers can be left to focus on the areas in which they add more value.  

In the digital age, there really is no reason for any of us – no matter our pay grade – to be undertaking menial, repetitive tasks. That stuff is far better left to technology. 

Ultimately, a skilled worker’s time is better spent elsewhere, and most firms would much rather pay their skilled workers to solve complex problems, develop new production methods, or apply creative thinking to the production process, than do a simple task that can be automated by software.  

Better still, if the worker involved is feeling refreshed and relaxed from their four-day working week, they’re likely to dream up creative solutions with much more efficiency.  

It’s definitely a cliché, but perhaps the biggest lesson we can all draw from this is that it really is better to work smarter, not harder.  

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