Revolutionising work culture: can AI make the four-day working week a reality?

The four-day week could be the next big thing to shake up work culture – with the crucial help of artificial intelligence and automation

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The increasing adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) could be the key ingredient to boost the transition to a four-day working week, an HR expert suggests.

Ayming’s HR Barometer 2023 suggests that 64% of organisations support a four-day week and this figure will increase as AI allows employees to do the same amount of work in fewer hours.

Rising support for a four-day week follows a pilot where 56 of the 61 participating businesses announced they would extend the scheme after reporting a marked increase in productivity and job satisfaction.

After the trial, 39% of employees were less stressed and 71% had reduced levels of burnout. Levels of anxiety, fatigue and sleep issues decreased, while mental and physical health also improved.

Research shows that 7 in 10 employees intend to ask their employer to embrace the four-day week, showing that UK work dynamics could soon experience seismic changes.

AI as a benevolent force?

With the rising popularity of chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, the fear is technology will replace millions of white collar roles.

PwC analysed 200,000 jobs in 29 countries and found that 3% of jobs are at potential risk of automation by early 2020s. Its report also revealed that 44% of workers with lower level education were at risk of automation by the mid-2030s.

Whilst these figures are foreboding, generative AI has the power to boost productivity and change work culture. Goldman Sachs estimates that AI could eventually increase annual global GDP by 7%.

“The case for a four-day week was already strong, but AI could really seal the deal for workers and trigger a widespread transition to a shorter work week,” explains Scott Ward, Partner at business management consultancy Ayming UK.

“Although there is some level of anxiety about AI’s impact on labour needs, I’m confident job roles will adapt, and automation will take on a lot of the more mundane tasks that people currently have to do.”

A study conducted by Ayming in January of 200 senior HR leaders in the UK found that 30% of businesses are introducing AI or automation that will replace jobs. However, the study suggests this will improve work life and efficiency, saving people time and allowing them to focus on more important and rewarding tasks.

Whilst generative AI technology like ChatGPT could be a threat to some job roles, Ward believes the net result will be a win for the working world. “Although this might contribute to redundancies in some areas, it could equally improve work life, making tasks more efficient and allowing people to focus on more rewarding work.”

The changing work landscape

If the pandemic brought about any lessons is that work culture is not set in stone. Hybrid work patterns have gradually become the norm. The four-day work week is no longer the pipedream it would have been a couple of years ago.

According to Ayming, workplaces are now adopting more flexible attitudes and employee support.

73% of firms back the introduction of volunteer programmes, 72% support providing financial guidance to help employees manage the cost-of-living crisis, 72% are in favour of offering childcare solutions, and 70% support providing therapy for employees.

These flexible attitudes, however, are not simply a symptom of employers’ goodwill. The UK is currently in the midst of a staggering fall in motivation among UK workers.

According to Ayming UK, 89% of firms reported a decline in motivation and employee engagement over the last three years. Moreover, 26% of firms say they are likely to make redundancies in 2023 and 37% are reducing recruitment.

These statistics demonstrate there are push factors that are forcing work culture to shift to accommodate more flexibility and employee wellbeing to retain and attract talent. Therefore, employers should also be looking to nurture environments for meaningful and flexible work.

Prioritising flexible working

In this bleak employment environment, employers are looking for ways to implement more perks and flexibility without sacrificing profit.

A four-day week could boost employee retention and encourage more applicants to fill vacancies. 80% of employees consider flexible work arrangements as a deciding factor when evaluating job offers.

According to research by Sonovate, 58% of UK businesses currently offer flexible working in some form. This represents a 566% increase over the past seven years.

The four-day week is the latest innovation in flexible working and could similarly become the norm in the future. Therefore, employers who are seriously considering making this transition might be best positioned to attract and retain top talent in the market.

For entrepreneurs and CEOs that are nervous about decreasing revenue from adopting a four-day week, AI could be the solution to striking the balance between employee wellbeing and productivity.

Written by:
Fernanda is a Mexican-born Startups Writer. Specialising in the Marketing & Finding Customers pillar, she’s always on the lookout for how startups can leverage tools, software, and insights to help solidify their brand, retain clients, and find new areas for growth. Having grown up in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, Fernanda is passionate about how businesses can adapt to new challenges in different economic environments to grow and find creative ways to engage with new and existing customers. With a background in journalism, politics, and international relations, Fernanda has written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to how businesses can retain staff during a recession. She is currently strengthening her journalistic muscle by studying for a part-time multimedia journalism degree from the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).

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