Software group WANdisco has become one of the first UK-listed companies to adopt a four-day week for its staff, in the latest sign of the upheaval in traditional working patterns caused by the pandemic.
From Monday, WANdisco will permanently move to a four-day working week, asking employees to take Friday as part of a longer weekend and becoming one of the largest tech employers in the UK to introduce the structure.
A number of smaller businesses have already said that they would move to a four-day week, with some announcing the shift as part of a trial being carried out by academics to study the benefits of having an extra day off.
David Richards, chief executive and founder of WANdisco, said the pandemic had already allowed much higher productivity across the company’s staff, who were largely now working from home. This meant that the work that was once being done in five days was now easily covered.
Richards predicted even greater levels of productivity and a boost to staff wellbeing.
WANdisco, an Aim-listed software business with customers including Google and Amazon, employs more than 180 people in Sheffield in the UK and San Ramon in California.
Employees’ salaries will not be affected by the changes. While Friday will be the default day off, workers will have the flexibility to choose an alternative day.
Last week, three other UK groups joined digital lender Atom Bank in committing to four-day working weeks. Yo Telecom, games developer Hutch and training provider MBL Seminars also predicted increases in productivity and wellbeing as a result of the shift.
Monzo, a digital bank, said it would offer three-month paid sabbaticals for staff every four years, while building services group Arup now allows staff to spread work hours over seven days.
Many employers are asking staff in the UK to return to the workplace after Covid-19 restrictions ended last month, but most have also set out new rules around flexible or hybrid working patterns that allow employees to split their time between the office and home.
WANdisco initially banned meetings on a Friday afternoon at the start of the pandemic, which led to increased productivity. Richards added that the company had started to worry that people were working too much given difficulties in separating work from personal life when working from home.
Richards described the move as “an inevitable economic reality for us all”, pointing to historical precedent in 1973 when UK commercial use of electricity was limited and forced a three-day working week.
“Most people expected a proportional 40 per cent drop in productivity. Much to everyone’s surprise, productivity in fact went up, as people found ways to work effectively within the new time structure,” he said.
“Working from home was an obvious move for many companies, and the switch to four days is the natural continuation of this trend that offers greater flexibility, increases business productivity and boosts employee wellbeing.”