In recent years and certainly since the pandemic, work-life balance and employee wellbeing have become increasingly more crucial for employees and employers across the world.
JMK Solicitors were one of the first employers in Northern Ireland to commit to and implement a four-day week for all employees, with no reduction in pay. Since January 2020 all JMK staff had their work hours reduced by 20%, from 37.5 hours to 30 hours with no impact on their salary. The four-day working week has improved JMK’s employee wellbeing with productivity and client care remaining of a high standard.
Similar pioneering approaches have been seen in other countries where the Government has implemented four-day working weeks on a pilot basis. In March 2021 it was announced that the Spanish Government will be trialing a four-day week pilot project, and in April 2021, Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP, committed to a four-day week pilot in Scotland.
Fórsa, the Irish trade union, have launched ‘The Four Day Week Campaign’ seeking a similar four-day week pilot project across the island of Ireland and hope to avail of a research partnership between University College Dublin and Boston College for the initiative.
Joe O’Connor, Chairperson of Four Day Week Ireland said, “The four day week may have seemed like a radical notion for many not too long ago. But more and more workers and businesses are now seeing that it is not only achievable but is a reasonable, rational response to the challenges our society faces today. It’s time to work smarter, not longer. Numerous academic studies, including from John Pencavel of Stanford University in 2014, have shown that there is no correlation between working long hours and greater productivity.”
Speaking about why JMK Solicitors decided to adjust their working hours to a four-day week, Maurece Hutchinson said, “Making people our priority is one of our core values that we strongly believe in, we have fantastic staff, but we never want to be complacent. We felt that with increased pressures on people in all areas of their life reduced hours should be considered by more employers. And we wanted to take a leading role. The gift of time is the greatest gift we and any employer can give to their team. We are happy to share our experiences with others and are delighted to offer our assistance and insights to our learnings to The Four Day Week Campaign.”
Speaking about the positive impact that a four day week has had on the team, Head of Operations and HR Michelle Murphy said, “The reduced working hours have improved work-life balance for all the team, it was brilliant to have had this in place when the pandemic hit as it really gave our team the time they needed to take care of their health and wellbeing and to be there to support their loved ones. “
“We have at the very least been able to maintain the same level of productivity we saw in 2019 before the reduction in working hours. We must acknowledge that the workplace and work patterns have also been greatly impacted by COVID 19 and we will continue to measure productivity in light of this also in the months and years ahead.”