The 9 to 5 slog in the office is ingrained in many of our working lives. But is it best for workers? With flexi-time and remote working on the rise, the shape of our working week is changing.
Examples of employers altering their working hours to suit their work force are already being seen across the globe. As this trend build momentum we wanted to see what people want from a re-shaped working week.
We surveyed 1,677 British full-time office workers to see when and where they want to work. All respondents were asked to plan their own 38-hour week, so the number of hours worked doesn’t vary.
Modern life presents a set of unique challenges to employees. Changing demands of childcare, commuting and socialising mean the 9 to 5 isn’t as convenient now as it once was.
Alongside this, the rise of tech means that working remotely is now a possibility for far more of us than ever before.
These changes mean it’s time to take a look at our traditional working week and see where improvements can be made.
The death of 9 to 5?
Our survey results show that the traditional 9 to 5 is no longer wanted by UK workers.
A major trend is a desire for longer working days in a trade-off for a shorter working week. Most people want to work only four days, with preferred days being:
- Monday (72% of people would like to work)
- Tuesday (93% of people would like to work)
- Wednesday (93% of people would like to work)
- Thursday (91% of people would like to work)
Only 50% of people wanted to work at all on Fridays, and less than 10% want to work on weekends.
Employees want to make up lost time by working longer hours. Most opted to work ten hours on Tuesday and Wednesday, with slightly shorter days of just over nine hours on Monday and Thursday.
To fit in their extra hours, workers want to be in their chairs at 8am (or slightly later on Monday and Thursday). Clocking off time will move back to 6pm to fit in with new extended working hours.
Moving to a four-day working week might not be within the reach of everyone. We’ve come to expect a seven-day economy, which often means people need to be in the office. But for non-client facing roles a four-day week can be achievable.
If you’re thinking about introducing a four-day week at your workplace, why not have it on a rolling basis? Employees taking it in turns to work a four-day week allows your staff the satisfaction of a three-day weekend, whilst ensuring your business is properly staffed.
Lunch Breaks or Leaving Early?
UK employees are keen to bargain with their lunch breaks. Less than 5% of the UK working population want to take a full hour’s break. Almost two-thirds (65%) want to spend less than half an hour on their main break of the day and 10% would opt for no break at all.
Taking a break is good for employees. It prevents fatigue and helps improve relationships with colleagues. But this doesn’t mean you can’t be flexible with them.
By law, workers are entitled to a 20-minute break for every six hours they work. Beyond this it might be worth allowing workers to choose their own lunch break. Giving employees this power shows trust in them. This increases good feeling and loyalty towards your company.
Restrictions may mean that this isn’t possible for all workplaces. But, as with the wider working week, even small steps towards employee empowerment can go a long way.
When they work is not the only thing that employees want to change. Location is a big pressure point too. In the past, work had to be done in the office because that’s where resources were. With today’s digital advances and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) this is no longer the case.
Using a laptop and a secure internet connection, office workers can access much of their work from home. Skype, conference calling and emails make out of office interaction with colleagues almost as easy as face-to-face.
Over half of UK full-time office workers (59%) want to work from home for at least some of their working week.
One in five (20%) of workers want to work from home between 90 and 100% of the time. The average amount people would like to see allowed for remote working is around one-third of the working week (34%).
Our findings also showed when people want to work from home. Most think it would be best to work from home in the morning. This gives employees chance to get into the working day and sort out priorities and admin, before venturing to the office at lunch and undertaking face-to-face and resource-heavy work.
Remote working is not possible for all office-based workers. Those in education especially may struggle and this is reflected in the demand from workers in these industries.
Those who want to see remote working most are in marketing and PR, and publishing industries. 75% and 83% of these industries respectively would like to see some remote working time every week.
Remote working can make staff more productive as they are in a relaxed atmosphere, without distractions popping up that could interrupt work. In the office, meetings, colleagues and unexpected tasks can interfere with planned work. Allowing for some time away from these allows workers to focus in on tasks that need to be done.
What it Could Mean for your Business
Altering your working week is not just about giving employees what they want. Our research shows that doing so can have tangible benefits for your business.
Currently 42% of employees think their company doesn’t give enough remote working time, and almost a third (29%) say that their current working arrangement has a negative effect on their personal life. Making changes to reflect what employees want will have a positive effect on these figures.
The possible benefits of making changes to a working week are huge. Happiness is a major factor – 70% of workers think changes to their working week would make them substantially happier.
Productivity would also see an upswing. 61% of respondents said that positive change in working hours would increase their output.
Motivation and creativity also look set to rise following a change. 51% of people think better working hours would motivate them, and 5% think it would get their creative juices flowing.
Effects on employees’ wider lives should also be considered when weighing up whether changes to working hours are worth it. The result of empowering employees to plan their working hours won’t just result in higher happiness levels.
Control can also reduce stress. 65% of people think choosing when and where they work will reduce the stress and anxiety they feel about work. Managers should take note of this as stress causes 40% of worked-related illnesses in the UK. Finding ways of reducing stress improves employee health and reduces lost working hours.
Our survey shows that the 9 to 5 way of working is not the way forward for most employees, the pressures of modern life meaning this schedule no longer works for them. Instead, workers want control of working location and longer working days in a trade-off for three-day weekends.
These demands may not be achievable for all businesses or industries, but, to recruit and retain the best staff, it is important to be aware of and work towards them where possible.