Navigating The Transition To A Four-Day Working Week

As organisations across various industries explore ways to enhance employee well-being and productivity, the concept of a 4-day working week has emerged as a potential solution. In the membership sector, where engagement and service delivery are paramount, the decision to adopt a condensed workweek requires careful consideration. In this article, we will delve into the potential benefits and challenges of implementing a 4-day working week in the membership sector and examine key considerations for implementation and explore the opinions of staff members within this sector.

Debates over the length of the workweek are nothing new. In 1926, the Ford Motor Company standardised the Monday-to-Friday pattern; beforehand, the common practice was a six-day workweek, with only Sundays off.

How it works 

In UK trials, the typical model involved reducing the working week to 32 hours worked over four days, so eight hours per day. The key is that there should be no corresponding reduction in pay. However, many more employers already allow what is known as ‘compressed hours’, where a member of staff works full-time hours (35, 37.5 or 40, for example) over a four-day period, rather than five days. In the trial, some companies adopted a ‘Friday off’ approach, some staggered the day off so that there was full coverage across the working week and some adopted an annualised approach.

According to Harvard Business review, there is an established non-linear relationship between hours worked and productivity; for example there is a diminishing rate of productivity for each additional hour someone works. They continue by saying that there’s a growing body of evidence suggesting that reduced-hour work schedules for the same level of pay are not only feasible when it comes to maintaining outcomes but also potentially advantageous across a number of metrics. In a host of trials undertaken around the world, they found that although there were some costs, trade-offs, and varying levels of work involved to prepare for a four-day workweek, the results were consistently positive when it came to things like employee well-being, retention, and even business outcomes.

However, these initiatives only work if companies undertake substantial work redesign to reduce hours while maintaining business outcomes. This means streamlining operations, removing administrative burdens, and prioritising high-impact work.

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The Pros of a 4-Day Working Week in the Membership Sector

Improved member engagement

A 4-day working week can lead to increased employee engagement and satisfaction, which can positively impact the quality of service provided to members. According to research by CIPD, engaged employees are more likely to go above and beyond in their roles, resulting in improved member experiences and retention rates.

Enhanced productivity

Contrary to common assumptions, reducing the number of working days can lead to increased productivity among employees in the membership sector. According to Harvard Business Review, shorter workweeks often result in greater focus and efficiency, as employees are motivated to complete tasks within a compressed timeframe. A study in 2021 of a four-day working week in Iceland of 2,500 employees found that productivity levels had either increased or were maintained.

One employee participating on a trial said: “I guess I've been a lot more careful with my calendar. It is one thing in terms of planning, focus time or identifying my priorities for the work week… not accepting every meeting that comes in.”

Talent attraction and retention

Offering a 4-day working week can be a compelling factor for attracting and retaining top talent within the membership sector. According to the British Business Bank, one survey reported that 68% of companies, covering a wide variety of sectors offering a four-day week said flexible working helped them attract talent.

Reduced costs

With one day less in the workplace, a membership organisation with office-based staff could see a reduction in costs. Less electricity usage could help reduce energy bills, and companies could also save money on water bills, food costs, and office maintenance. A survey of UK businesses in 2021 revealed that 66% of businesses offering a four-day week were able to reduce costs.

Employee well-being

A four-day working week could increase your employees' health and well-being. An extra day of rest could help reduce employee burnout and provide additional time for physical exercise. Employees are less likely to take sick leave caused by stress and illness by having more time to rest.

Andy Illingworth, of design agency Punch Creative, based in Leeds, UK, who has been doing the four-day workweek since 2020, values his extra day off highly. “Friday afternoons aren’t historically the most productive,” he says. “Now, on a Friday, I can pursue hobbies, play tennis and take long walks. It also gives me more time to build up skills and ideas that I can bring fresh on a Monday morning. I wouldn’t want to go back to a five-day workweek.”

Better for the planet

With one less day at work, commuting time per week was expected to drop and that’s just what happened, falling from 3.5 hours to just under 2.6 hours – 27% lower. But a bigger surprise was an overall reduction in people commuting by car, from 56.5% to 52.5% of employees.

Researchers said this was partly due to remote working but there were other signs that people were more environmentally conscious. Time spent on household recycling, walking, cycling and buying eco-friendly products saw “a small but significant” increase. Membership organisations  could find it helps them to achieve their ESG goals.

The Cons of a 4-Day Working Week in the Membership Sector

Operational Challenges

Implementing a 4-day working week in the membership sector may present operational challenges, particularly in roles that require continuous service delivery or member engagement. Maintaining service levels and meeting member expectations with fewer working days can be a logistical hurdle for some organisations.

According to a report by CIPD, 45% of businesses express concerns about the impact of a condensed workweek on their operations, citing potential disruptions and logistical complexities.

Harvard Business Review says it’s important to clearly define the work that matters. Frameworks such as OKRs (objectives and key results) can define company and team-level goals and ensure everyone’s work ladders up into those goals. There are four suggested approaches to make it work:
  1. Run a meeting audit. Meetings are often one of the first areas to get scrutinized as unproductive time.
  2. Allow employees to operate to the full extent of their education and training. Many employees are bogged-down with other administrative or menial tasks, so they can’t focus on priority tasks. We recommend stopping, automating, or outsourcing all non-priority tasks.
  3. Embrace asynchronous communication, where an immediate reply is not required. When implementing a four-day workweek, asynchronous communication becomes essential to help employees from having work interrupted.
  4. To maintain employee focus, there should be a clear understanding of what requires escalation, and who will handle it.

Workload management

Condensing work into a shorter timeframe can place additional pressure on employees to manage their workloads effectively. Without proper workload management strategies in place, staff members may experience stress and burnout as they strive to meet member demands within a compressed schedule.

A study by the BBC found that employees working a 4-day week reported reduced levels of burnout. but also that where it didn't work, already under-pressure staff were struggling to manage their workload effectively, indicating potential challenges in adapting to the condensed schedule.

Gallup’s research similarly finds both positive and negative impacts of working a shorter week. While employee well-being rises and burnout reduces due to a four-day workweek, active disengagement also spikes: workers who are already feeling disconnected from their company become more likely to drift further away if they work fewer days.

Some workers may resist having a compressed workweek, with potentially longer hours and fewer breaks, imposed on them by an employer. Others may already be working at full tilt, meaning a shorter workweek could make their workload less manageable. According to Dr. Jim Harter, chief scientist for workplace management and wellbeing at Gallup and co-author of Wellbeing at Work, “There are some employees who’ll end up trying to cram more work into four days where they previously had greater flexibility to work across five days,” says Harter. “If you get to Thursday afternoon, still haven't finished your work and everyone else has gone home, that can create stress and resentment.”

Potential member impact

Transitioning to a 4-day working week may have implications for member service and satisfaction within the membership sector. If not managed effectively, reduced working hours could lead to longer response times and decreased availability, impacting member experiences and perceptions of the organisation.

A study in the UK shows that 75% of companies not implementing a four-day week were concerned about customer availability.

Reduced productivity

While many organisations see an improvement to productivity, implementing a 4-day week has the potential to have a negative impact on productivity if not managed well, for example if you are trying to match the productivity of a five-day week in four days it could increase pressure on employees who were already stretched, potentially leading to a drop in quality and more workplace stress.

What to Avoid When Implementing a 4-Day Working Week in the Membership Sector

Lack of communication

Effective communication is essential when implementing changes to the working week in the membership sector. Employers should engage with staff members early in the process, explaining the rationale behind the decision and addressing any concerns or questions they may have especially around work delivery expectations and pay.

According to CIPD, 72% of employees believe that clear communication is essential during periods of change, highlighting the importance of keeping staff informed and involved throughout the transition.

Unrealistic expectations

Setting realistic expectations is crucial to the success of a 4-day working week implementation in the membership sector. Employers should assess workload levels and adjust expectations accordingly to ensure that staff members can maintain a healthy work-life balance while meeting member needs.

Ignoring employee feedback

Employee feedback is invaluable during the implementation of a 4-day working week, as it provides insights into the challenges and concerns facing staff members in the membership sector. Employers should actively seek input from employees throughout the process and be prepared to make adjustments based on their feedback.

According to People Management, 68% of employees feel that their opinions are not taken into account when decisions are made that affect their work, highlighting the importance of listening to staff concerns and addressing them proactively.

Opinions of staff in the membership sector

The opinions of staff members within the membership sector regarding a 4-day working week vary depending on individual preferences and job roles. While some employees welcome the opportunity for improved work-life balance, others express concerns about workload management and potential member impact.


  • Implementing a 4-day working week in the membership sector presents both opportunities and challenges for organisations seeking to enhance employee well-being and productivity. While it offers the potential for improved member engagement, talent attraction, and work-life balance, businesses must navigate operational challenges, workload management issues, and potential member impact.
  • By avoiding common pitfalls and prioritising effective communication, realistic expectations, and employee feedback, organisations can successfully transition to a 4-day working week while maximising the benefits for employees and members alike.
  • Workers at more than 60 UK companies trialled a four-day work week between June and December 2022, with over 2,900 employees taking part. More than 90% of participating businesses have opted to continue with the four day week, with 18 adopting it permanently.
  • The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports that flexible working arrangements, including shorter workweeks, have been on the rise in recent years, with 27% of UK employees working from home or using flexible hours in 2020.
  • The World Economic Forum states that a shorter working week could lead to happier, healthier, and more productive employees, ultimately benefiting both individuals and businesses.
  • The CIPD opinion is that despite the obstacles to the transition to the four-day working week, it is positive ambition and one that CIPD supports in principle. The rationale for the four-day week is a strong one, to give people more leisure time and improve their wellbeing while increasing their productivity to compensate.

At Membership Bespoke, we have extensive experience of how membership organisations are structuring their staffing to meet the challenges ahead. Discover more about our expertise.