Video report by West Wales reporter Jess Main
Staff at a hairdressers in Cardiff who have been working a four-day week for the past two years without a pay cut say they feel healthier, happier and more relaxed.
Since the start of the pandemic, staff at Slunks hair salon in the city centre have been turning up to work four days per week instead of five.
Now there are calls for the Welsh Government to launch a four-day working week trial, allowing more employers to trial the new way of working.
And a study has revealed that the shift to shorter hours could create almost 40,000 new public sector jobs and would be supported by more than 60% of people in Wales.
'This is simply a better, healthier way of working'
Joel McCauley opened Slunks more than a decade ago and wanted to do things differently. He set out a long-term plan to move to a shorter working week, which was accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Since March 2020, all full-time staff at the salon he co-owns in the Morgan Arcade have swapped to a four-day week with no reduction in pay, while part-time members of staff have had pay rises.
The only members of staff working more than a four-day week are apprentices, but they will be offered the same benefit once they qualify.
“Covid-19 has been incredibly stressful for industries like hairdressing but it’s highlighted some of the issues that have always existed – you can be in a perpetual cycle: work, food, sleep,” said Joel.
“People don’t always realise but working in hairdressing can be extremely draining. I’ve worked in salons where we were worked like dogs. I’ve seen young people in the industry turn to drugs and alcohol because they’re exhausted and they don’t have the time to make changes to their life.
“Six-day weeks, back-to-back clients, moving from job to job because they have no time to think or plan what you’re going to do next.
"Anxiety is rampant in the industry and I’ve suffered with anxiety and depression and it can mainly be attributed to the amount of hours I was working. I got burnout.”
Joel is now urging other employers to follow suit in offering four-day working weeks to staff.
“This is simply a better, healthier way of working,” he said.
“I genuinely think we aren’t meant to work full-time – how many people do you know who are constantly overworked and unhappy about it?
"When you have more time you can think about life in a different way. At work you’re likely to have more energy and fewer non-productive days. Outside work you can be a better person, a better parent, a better member of the community.
“Society isn’t working. The current system is broken and based on old-fashioned capitalism. Thanks to a four-day week, I feel better, staff feel better – we’re all working better. We’re making more money at busier times.
"Customers love it because they know we appreciate our staff. The pandemic has given us an opportunity to do things differently – to change the way we treat people, young people especially, and the way we set up society for people in the future – let’s take it.”
'I’m more motivated at work'
Bradley Ashton, a graduate stylist from Cardiff who has worked at Slunks for more than two years, said he’s a calmer person due to having three days off a week rather than two.
"Having the extra day off helps me stay motivated in my personal life and with fitness, which really helps my mental state," said Bradley.
"I’m more motivated at work and I enjoy work a lot more. I’m not so tired and stressed which makes me feel better and I feel really positive at work and makes me want to do more.
"I have a Sunday and Monday off then I alternate my Tuesday and Wednesday off. I treat my Sunday and Monday days off as my weekend then I use the other day toget jobs done.
The four-day working week currently in action at Slunks is something Wales' Future Generations Commissioner, Sophie Howe, would like to see rolled out more widely.
'A win-win for both workers and employers in Wales'
“It’s clear that following the pandemic people across Wales are re-evaluating their priorities in life and looking for a healthier work-life balance,” said Ms Howe, who is calling on the Welsh Government to launch a shorter working week trial.
“The escalating demands of caring for loved ones due to an ageing population and an increase in mental health issues exacerbated by working long hours are just some of the factors which make a shorter working week more appealing.
“A shorter working week can result in increased productivity which will be of huge benefit to employers for a happier, healthier workforce.
"The working week has not changed for more than 100 years and now seems the perfect opportunity for the Welsh Government to commit to a pioneering trial and build evidence for greater change across Wales.”
Research led by Wales’ Future Generations Commissioner Sophie Howe found 62% of the public would like a shorter working week if there was no decrease in salary.
Ms Howe found that as well as public support, a move to shorter hours could create 38,000 public sector jobs in Wales.
The four day week would cost an estimated £1 billion, the equivalent of 2.5% of Wales’ current public sector spending. The study also cited evidence that a cut in the volume of people commuting can help slash carbon emissions.
Will Stronge, co-director of think tank Autonomy, said: “All the evidence suggests that a shorter working week with no loss of pay would be a win-win for both workers and employers in Wales.
“Countries across the world including Scotland and Ireland have already launched four-day week trials and a radical Welsh Government should be leading the way on this too.
"Moving to a four-day week would boost productivity and workers’ wellbeing and create tens of thousands of new jobs in the Welsh public sector. The potential benefits are too large to ignore.”
Welsh Government statementThe Welsh Government said it is "considering" the progress of a four-day working week pilots in other countries.
A spokesperson said: “We recognise potential benefits in a shorter working week and some businesses in Wales are already expressing an interest in moving in that direction. We are considering the progress of pilots in other countries and examining the lessons Wales can learn.
"A shorter working week is just one example of flexible working and through our social partnership approach we want to encourage more employers to provide workers with greater choice over where and when they work.”