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Is a four-day workweek the solution for happier business post-pandemic?

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Young female workers back in the office during an informal meeting
30 UK-based companies are moving their employees to a four-day working week for a six-month trial - Photo: © Mimi Thian

No one would have dared to suggest it, prior to a pandemic that grounded employees at home and made companies learn new ways of keeping business as usual, with staff working remotely miles away from their empty offices.

But now that, over the past two years of mastering Slack and Zoom meetings, employees realised that commuting several hours just to sit in front of a computer or to answer a phone doesn’t necessarily equate to productivity, a shorter week is on the cards. 30 UK-based companies are moving their employees to a four-day working week in an attempt to boost productivity in the workplace this year.

The concept is known as the 100:80:100 model, where workers receive 100% of pay for 80% of their time, as long as they commit to 100% productivity.

Across the pond, other companies are also trying to reduce working days to increase staff retention, with Panasonic announcing a four-day workweek policy earlier this year and San Francisco-based checkout startup Bolt adopting a four-day workweek after conducting a trial in which executives improved productivity and work-life balance.

It is the latest development of the new normal, now that several countries have dropped national mandatory work from home rules. And almost 100 years since Henry Ford adopted a five-day workweek when, in 1926, when his factories stopped production on Saturdays and Sundays, the new move to make our workweek even shorter is certainly a welcomed one.

But how feasible it is to fit approximately 40 hours of work, the average weekly hours of many employees, in fewer days? And, most importantly: can it really make a difference?

For entrepreneur Baruch Labunski, CEO at digital marketing company Rank Secure, age and position within a company can play a vital role in whether a reduced week, on paper, might not turn out to be that reduced after all.

“Employees who are younger and motivated will likely like the idea, as it gives them an extra day off. That could mean more effective production. However, those a little older or senior-level employees may see it as a negative because they already work long hours and likely would still need to come in all five days. That could mean no benefits.”

Labunski also believes that logistics can be an issue preventing the success of a four-day week for many companies:

“The other issue that would be negative for some companies is keeping production lines going to keep up with orders as most employees move to the four-day workweek. It could end up costing the company more in overall employee pay as well as negatively affecting production. After all, the company must still contend with vendors and customers who may not be on a four-day workweek.”

It is logistics, indeed – and not old structured weekdays and how people split them in between work and private life – that will end up proving to be the biggest challenge for companies trying to implement a shorter week in 2022:

“A four day working week sounds excellent – for a full-time employee at least. For an employer, it comes with problems as it effectively increases the wage bill but for no obvious increase in output. It creates issues for roles where cover is required as there is one day less per employee available to be deployed. It also causes problems when the employer has part-time employees as do you then reduce their hours pro-rata? The only way I have seen a four-day work week work well is when a compressed working week is in place as the hours are still broadly the same. I have benefitted from this arrangement in the past myself and enjoyed having that extra day off each week while still performing my duties in a full-time capacity. Four longer days isn’t for everyone though and it wouldn’t work for employees with certain learning requirements or disabilities for example.” – says Sophie Milliken a recruitment and employability expert with over 15 years of recruitment experience and author of the book ‘From Learner to Earner’, a recruitment insider’s guide for students wanting to achieve graduate job success (Rethink Press, 2019).

In a new world where many of us have now got used to work from our home offices, often wearing clothes way more comfortable than any workplace’s dress code, it is no wonder companies are struggling to bring staff back to fill their offices from Monday to Friday. But can companies find out if a four-day work week will, realistically, positively impact productivity and staff happiness?

HR specialist Suki Sandhu

Suki Sandhu, from INvolve: Covid-19 and remote working showed us how quickly and effectively individuals can adapt to new working practices

UK-based HR specialist Suki Sandhu, founder of INvolve, a global network and consultancy enterprise championing diversity and inclusion in businesses, believes that data collection, when done properly and with transparency, can improve productivity and wellbeing in the work place.

“Many forward-thinking companies are already monitoring both productivity and wellbeing as key performance indicators, so it should be clear to see if the needle is moving. However, for those who aren’t, there are many advantages in understanding and connecting with different employee experiences, so finding new ways to collate key data is important. But it must be done correctly and openly. Tracking employees without consent or clear justification – especially through technology – is a dangerous trend which can be counter-productive to both productivity and happiness. Instead, it is important to engage employees with any data-collection process to outline both the reasons, and how the information they provide will help everyone in creating a better workplace.”

The four-day work trial in the UK is expected to last approximately six months and companies taking part are provided with support from experts, researchers, and academics. But before we can see any results, companies planning to replicate the work model already utilised by many companies in Japan should think it through, taking one step at a time to be able to cope with the potential downsides.

“Just like any major change, there will be an adjustment period. Some people define themselves through their work, it is part of their identity, so scaling back the time they dedicate to it may initially be challenging. However, Covid-19 and remote working showed us how quickly and effectively individuals can adapt to new working practices – if, and only if – they are adequately supported and championed by their employers. The fact is that productivity doesn’t necessarily suffer when work time is reduced to 4 days so the stress of not getting enough done should quickly subside and become business-as-usual.” – complements Suki Sandhu, from INvolve.

As we move forward into 2022 and beyond, maybe the solution to bring employees back to work is exactly that: to allow them to carry on working from their homes, even if just a day per week.

The pandemic may be coming to an end. But those Slack chats pinging on the corner of your PC and Zoom meetings with domestic sounds popping in the background are not over, yet.

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Sky Studios Elstree searches for young talent to join Content Academy

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Applications for new roles aimed at launching young people into a career in film and TV close on May 15th | Photo: Kyle Loftus

Sky Studios Elstree is on the search for local candidates, in Hertfordshire, to fill 12 fully paid, year-long placements as part of Sky’s Content Academy, aimed at launching young people into careers in the film and TV industry.

The Studio, which is set to open later this year, is looking for eight school leavers and four recent graduates to work at their brand-new site and is calling out for applicants from Borehamwood, Elstree and the surrounding areas.

For school leavers, the roles include four Runners who will be at the heart of the operations of Sky Studios Elstree, working with the Client Services and Operations teams to provide support to some of the biggest productions filming in the UK. There’s also one Rigging and three Lighting roles to be filled and this team will play a critical role in providing set lighting and equipment to clients filming at the studios.

“Elstree and Borehamwood is synonymous with producing world-class film & TV and, as long-term partners in the local area, we are excited to create these new opportunities for young people who want to get in to the industry. These roles allow us to break down barriers to entry, by enabling applicants without previous film or TV experience to secure a paid, full-time role at the heart of the UK’s newest studio. These 12 new roles, on top of the jobs already created locally at the studio, are just the first intake of placements and we’re excited to announce more as we ready for opening later this year.” – says Caroline Cooper, COO at Sky Studios.

When it opens later this year, Sky Studios Elstree will house 13 studios and enable £3bn of production investment over the first five years of operation.

The graduate roles include Senior Runner and Client Services and Operations Trainee positions. These candidates will be responsible for everything from coordinating the runner team, attending production meetings to overall studio operation support. The positions are designed to give people starting out in their career a broad understanding of what goes into productions and the vast range of opportunities available, as well as allowing them to build up their on-set experience and production network.

This opportunity follows Sky’s yearlong partnership with Elstree Screen Arts Academy, coaching students in a documentary project celebrating Elstree & Borehamwood’s rich film and TV heritage. This summer, ESA students will receive first-hand production experience as part of a 6-week summer internship on a variety of Sky Studios productions.

These new roles come after Sky Studios Elstree announced a local recruitment drive late last year for a range of operational roles and for facilities support across the site including security, cleaners and maintenance.

Applications for new roles aimed at launching young people into a career in film and TV close on May 15th  and for further information visit: https://careers.sky.com/earlycareers/content-academy/

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Applications for the 2022 Airbnb Athlete Travel Grant are open until May 20

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In 2021, more than 9,000 athletes benefited from Airbnb athlete support programs, representing more than $4 million in direct support | Photo: Anastase Maragos

Airbnb has opened applications for the next edition of the Airbnb Athlete Travel Grant, in partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). The program, which was launched in 2021, offers up to 500 athletes a year $2,000 USD travel grant to use exclusively on the accommodation platform as they travel, train, and compete and will run through 2028.

Last year 500 athletes representing 125 countries and 63 sports benefitted from the Airbnb Athlete Travel Grant program, including Canoe sprint athlete Saied Fazloula, who represented the Refugee Olympic Team at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020:

’’I used my Airbnb Athlete Travel Grant for multiple trips before the Olympic Games in Tokyo, including for a training camp and other competitions. It’s incredibly valuable to have this support as a refugee – Airbnb has provided not only a grant, but also a clear head so that I can concentrate on my sport.” – acknowledges Fazloula.

Applications will close on May 20, 2022 at 1:59 pm PDT. The Airbnb Athlete Travel Grant can only be used towards Stays in association with training, medical, or competition-related travel, and is not intended for non-sports-related personal use.

To find out more and apply, visit: www.airbnb.com/athletetravelgrant

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Top 10 cities for sourcing highly skilled talent in Europe

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Young European male professional working on a computer
Forecast: 30-40% of employees are expected to be part of hybrid work settings

A new report by Forrester, a research and advisory firm, has ranked Helsinki, Stockholm, and Copenhagen as the top European hotspots for businesses to recruit highly skilled talent.

Navigating The Leading Skill Clusters Across Europe, ranks 50 cities to help tech and business leaders establish where to source the skills needed for the future. The focus on digital transformation efforts, an aging population, increasing automation, and continued pandemic-related disruptions have created a skills gap in Europe.

The recent study also highlights that Europe‘s heterogeneous skill landscape is led by the North and West. Top ranked cities like Helsinki and Berlin offer a highly educated and diverse workforce with above average language skills and a business-friendly regulatory framework.

“The focus on green and digital revolution coupled with the socio-economic changes have created a noticeable skills gap in Europe, which can be debilitating for business growth,” – says Dan Bieler, principal analyst at Forrester. “To prepare for the future of work, European businesses need to hire talent adept at both technical and soft skills. The Nordics region is teeming with precisely this kind of talent. Recruiting talent from emerging hubs like the Nordics will allow European businesses to accelerate digital transformation efforts and drive long-term business growth.”

The top 10 cities also include Berlin, Hamburg, Oslo, Munich, Vienna, Zurich, and Amsterdam. London, often known as Europe’s tech hub, was ranked 19th — largely due to stringent immigration rules post-Brexit, resulting in London, Manchester, and Birmingham sliding in rankings.

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