Key to productivity – a four-day week?

Flexible working patterns, including a switch to a four-day week, could improve workplace productivity, according to a new survey by Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS).

Productivity has become an increasing focus for UK businesses, with the World Management Survey suggesting output per worker in the UK is 20 to 30 per cent below most industrialised economies.

A survey of 500 employees in middle and upper management roles revealed 37 per cent feel a change in working patterns, such as flexible hours and reducing the number of days in a working week, could be a key way to improve productivity.

Professor Bryan Lukas, Academic Director of Executive Education at AMBS, said: “Improving productivity isn’t just about managers pushing their people to do more work. It is about understanding people, and what holds them back, in order to help them excel.

“Following the pandemic, a lot of workers have come to expect a level of flexibility – the challenge for leaders is how they can facilitate this to the advantage of both the business and staff.

“The latest figures show that, while the number of hours worked across the UK was down 1.6 per cent on pre-pandemic levels, output per hour worked was up by 2.1 per cent, a strong indicator that reducing the number of hours work won’t necessarily result in a dip in productivity – quite the opposite.”

Meanwhile, 38 per cent of those surveyed feel training to improve their leadership skills would help them to get the best out of their workforce.

Professor Lukas added: “Business isn’t a skill you learn once and then retain forever; you have to keep evolving. That’s why it’s no surprise that managers feel training is vital to improving productivity.

“The growing importance of training at all stages of people’s career has changed the way academic institutions are thinking too – we need to consider how we can equip people with the skills they need to continue their development.”

AMBS has recently introduced a programme of 16 Executive Education courses that aims to help leaders upskill and adapt to a changing business landscape. These four-day courses include various strategy and management topics such as Leading Digital Transformation, Data and Artificial intelligence for Leaders, Psychology of Leading People.