Home working is ‘regressive’ for women claims Rachel Johnson
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The app based bank has confirmed it introduced the new four day week on November 1 for all of its 430 employees with the majority choosing to adopt it. Previously Atom employees worked a 37.5 hour week across five days but this will now reduce to a 34 hour week spread over four days. Staff taking up the reduced hours option will see their shifts lengthen slightly, working 8.5 hours instead of 7.5. It is expected most employees will take Monday or Friday as the default day off apart from those in operational or services roles whose days will vary to allow seven day a week customer support. Mark Mullen, CEO of Atom, explained experiences during the pandemic had “exploded many of the myths of the modern workplace” with changes not needing to stop at working from home.
Mr Mullen said: “A four-day week will provide our employees with more opportunities to pursue their passions, spend time with their families, and build a healthier work/life balance.
“We firmly believe that this will prove beneficial for our employees’ wellbeing and happiness and that it will have an equally positive impact on business productivity and customer experience.”
Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development cautioned a shorter working week would only be sustainable by smarter working to improve productivity.
Mr Willmott explained: ““It is undoubtedly a positive move for employers to seek to reduce people’s working hours without compromising pay.
“However, the challenge of simply reducing people’s working hours without other changes is that you can increase exposure to work intensity and stress, which is already one of the main causes of working time lost to sickness absence.”
Atom points to the evolving history of working patterns as evidence for the need to change.
The standard five day working week was first popularised by US carmaker Henry Ford in the 1920s and subsequently taken up by Boots in the UK in 1934.
From there most other companies began to follow suit whereas previously a six day week had been more common.
In Iceland a trial was run by Reykjavik City Council this year to introduce four day weeks to workplaces such as preschools, social services and hospitals.
Widely reported to be a success trials are also now taking place by consumer giant Unilever in New Zealand.
The idea of a four day week has not always worked for all sectors though.
In 2019 the Wellcome trust shelved its plans to try out four day working after concluding it was “too operationally complex to implement.”
Mr Mullen commented: “While we appreciate a four-day working week will not be right for all workplaces, the move to working from home has proved that working practices that may have seemed years away can be introduced rapidly.”
“We are proud to be one of the first businesses to introduce a four-day week for all our employees, and we hope many others follow suit.”
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As well as benefits to employee welfare Atom also believe a shorter working week could reduce the environmental impact of companies.
The group cites a 2021 study by environmental organisation Platform London which found a UK wide switch to four day working by 2025 could lower CO2 emissions by over 20 percent.
Atom was launched in 2016 as the UK’s first app based bank offering savings accounts, mortgages and business loans.
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