A recent conversation with senior people at Ernst & Young revealed that
the firm is about to trial four day weeks for some staff, providing they can do
ten hour days, not all of which will have to be in the office.
I suspect that if the firm is trialling it, it will end up being implemented
more widely, which will mean E&Y staff will get even more flexible working.
Incidentally, the inspiration for doing this was a US company which no one, bar
no one, I am assured ever left.
Drastically reducing staff turnover is a key reason for introducing such
working practices recruitment is a significant cost to any company, and in the
battle for talent, it makes the employers more attractive.
Can I make another case though? It’s also a necessary social and economic
good. We live in times when most mortgages require two incomes to service them.
Once children come along those two incomes are still necessary, so flexible
working packages to make having children and a decent family life easier are
I speak as a first time father grappling with the dismal nature of maternity pay
and the drastic belt tightening that requires at home.
So I can’t help feeling that E&Y has got it right. A cultural shift will
be necessary, however, a move to one where employers ‘trust’ their staff.
‘Supervisory’ cultures the working environment in which most of us currently
function will have to diminish. Strange as it sounds, that’s going to be
hardest of all. E&Y assure me that people work harder this way, so they’re
more productive i.e. there’s more profit in it potentially. That’s good news
And me? Well, I’m writing this from home.
Gavin Hinks is editor of Accountancy Age
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