The 4 day week.
It's not all roses
Flash back to the beginning of the year and it seemed there was a general consensus on how the future of work was set to play out across most industries. Customised schedules and hybrid working, allowing employees to fulfil their 40 hours when and where suited them - meaning flexibility in whatever shape or form was needed by the individual. Fast forward a couple of months and there has been a cat set amongst the pigeons. The results are in for the UK’s first trial of a 4-day work week and the statistics seem to be in favour of it. Could this signal the start of a mega shift towards a new shorter, but significantly more structured, working week? An extra day off sounds great in theory but perhaps wishful thinking for the design industry with its tight deadlines and many moving parts.
Campaigners for the 4-day week argue that we’re overdue an update in the way we structure our work life and they’ve got a point. It has been 100 years since Henry Ford announced the 8-hour, 5-day work week down from 6 days and we’ve pretty much followed suit ever since. The pandemic proved that remote working is feasible so why not a shorter week? Results from the trial, organised by campaign group 4 Day Week Global, think-tank Autonomy and researchers at Boston College and the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, are certainly optimistic: employees reported they found it easier to balance their work with family and social commitments and felt less stressed, while the majority of employers who took part said they would continue trying out the four-day week based on evidence of benefits like improvements in staff retention and reduction in the number of sick days.
Realistically, however, there are certain industries that are better suited to a 4 day week, such as Finance and Tech, but for Interior Design there seem to be too many hurdles to make it a viable option. For those who work in the design industry it is not uncommon to do 50 hour weeks nevermind 40, so cramming a full week’s work into 4 days could lead to 12+ hour days. This would up the pressure and put extra demands on employees and the way they work, inevitably taking a toll on mental health.
The social aspect of work will almost certainly also be compromised if there is a drive for more efficiency. Less socialising will result in less idea sharing, affecting not only studio morale but also creative output.
From the client’s perspective, a shorter week could prove to be a disadvantage. Working to tight deadlines alongside contractors, it could be frustrating, and even detrimental to projects, to have no contact or access to the studio one day a week for needs like site visits and installations. Such limitations may even become the difference between winning work and missing out to another studio who operates a 5-day week.
Lastly, interior design is known to be female-centric and one of the fundamental necessities for attracting more women back to the workplace, as mentioned in our recent article, is to offer flexibility in order to work around childcare. With many companies suggesting that they would only implement a 4-day week if employees were physically in the office for those days, access to the best talent would be significantly reduced and it could potentially even force some employees out - the polar opposite of what our industry needs.
In summary, it seems the 4-day week would in fact be a step backwards for the Interior Design industry rather than a leap forward. Remaining available to clients whilst also meeting employees needs is key and that’s why flexibility is still king.