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Four days for FM?

As new trials of the four-day work week are launched in the UK, Hannah Jackson of Henley Training asks, is this style of working beneficial for the FM sector?

Over the last few years, enthusiasm for switching to a four-day work week has grown. During the pandemic, several countries introduced four-day work week trials. Spain, for example, announced a voluntary three-year trial of a 32-hour work week. Similar schemes were implemented in Japan and New Zealand. 

In January, the 4 Day Week pilot collaborated with think tank Autonomy and researchers at Cambridge University to launch a trial in the UK, aiming to demonstrate that a reduction in working hours increases employee productivity, commitment and motivation. But what are the benefits and challenges associated with the four-day week, are reduced working hours sufficient to increase productivity, and is a four-day week practical for the facilities management sector?


One of the key benefits for employers is that a four-day week actually boosts employee productivity through a reduction in hours spent at work. Recent studies indicate that reduced working hours can significantly increase employee productivity. In 2019, Microsoft Japan introduced a four-day week, without a reduction in pay. Productivity increased by an estimated 40 per cent, and researchers observed an improvement in employee motivation.

In this trial and others, employees felt that their individual wellbeing was prioritised by employers, resulting in the cultivation of a more positive organisational culture. Studies demonstrate that positive organisational cultures improve staff engagement and foster environments conducive to effective collaboration.

According to data collected by Health and Safety England, around 1.7 million employees suffered from work-related illnesses in 2021. Almost 50 per cent of absences were due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety. Every year, companies across the UK lose thousands of pounds to absences. Work-related stress is particularly prevalent within the FM sector, with employees frequently faced with unpredictable challenges, dwindling resources and the pressure to meet budgets. Many employees attribute their stress, depression and anxiety to continuous burnout, an unhealthy work/life balance, and little opportunity to socialise, exercise or prepare healthy meals. A reduction in working hours, no matter how minimal, could help to remedy this, benefitting both the employer and employee.


In 2013, FMJ published research indicating a lack of diversity and equality in the facilities management sector. According to the research, very few women attained managerial positions and were underrepresented in many companies.

Inequality continues to blight the industry today, although numerous organisations, such as MACE, So’SPIE Ladies Network and Women in ENGIE, are working hard to advocate for gender parity. A four-day work week, if implemented effectively, could aid the promotion of equality and diversity. Women are statistically more likely to sacrifice work to fulfil childcare responsibilities than men, with many struggling to afford childcare five days a week. Statistics suggest, in fact, that 41 per cent of women in employment work part-time. For context, only 13 per cent of men in employment work part-time. A reduction in working hours could significantly lower the cost of childcare for many parents, allowing women to prioritise their careers.


Thus far, the successful implementation of the four-day work week has been limited. Opponents argue that a reduction in working hours would be impractical for certain industries, including that of FM. There is some concern, for example, that customer engagement and service quality may be negatively impacted by a four-day week. Others worry that employees would be less adept to deal with emergency situations with increased time spent away from the workplace. We maintain, however, that the four-day work week has the potential to enact positive, tangible change in the FM sector.

FM encompasses an extensive variety of roles and responsibilities, and managers implementing a reduction in working hours must not be tempted to take a homogenous approach to change. For some roles, it may be practical to condense working hours into four consecutive days, with a three-day weekend. Employees in other roles may work more efficiently with a short mid-week break, or by working slightly shorter days.

A commitment to cohesion, communication and collaboration, however, is crucial, particularly for those managing large teams. Facilities managers must demonstrate innovative thinking and a readiness to adapt to change, supporting clients if they decide to implement shorter working hours.

Many facility managers are responsible for coordinating a rapid and effective emergency response. A reduction in hours must not impede their ability to do this. It may be prudent, therefore, for organisations to assign a deputy, although this will not be financially feasible for small businesses.

The four-day week should not be considered a panacea for low productivity, motivation and commitment, but should instead be implemented alongside other initiatives. Managers should consistently communicate the “bigger picture” to employees, emphasising long-term organisational goals. Training should be prioritised, with a focus on individual and collective development.

If the facilities management sector is to thrive, it must continuously evolve. The four-day week may provide a fantastic way to do this.

About Sarah OBeirne

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