Hidden Costs of Absenteeism: Is a Four-Day Working Week the Solution?

Hidden Costs of Absenteeism: Is a Four-Day Working Week the Solution?

Hidden Costs of Absenteeism: Is a Four-Day Working Week the Solution?

A recent Expert Market study has found that almost half of all businesses in the US, Canada and the UK have introduced remote/flexible working policies to combat employee absenteeism, a phenomenon which costs UK businesses around £100 billion a year, the Department of Work and Pensions says.

The 23.3 million sick days taken a year cost UK businesses between £28 billion a year alone, a study released this week revealed. During a four-day working week trial that took place in the UK, however, sick days decreased by 65%, and 71% of participants reported a decrease in workplace burnout.

The costs associated with employee absenteeism are so eye-watering that introducing a four-day working week may actually save businesses money, especially considering that the aforementioned trial found that the extra day’s rest had no effect on employees’ outputs and over 9/10 participating companies have continued the practice beyond the 6-month test. 

Here are the main statistical findings of the absenteeism study:

  • Disengagement costs employers an estimated £340 billion in the UK annually 

  • On average a disengaged employee costs a fifth of their salary to the business they work for

  • Absenteeism costs the private sector an average of £568 per employee each year

  • Mental health-related absences are costing businesses 7 times more than COVID-related absences

  • From the absenteeism study of 50 North American and European businesses by Expert Market, 48% of companies had introduced remote/flexible working policies, and 34% of companies had a wellness program as a part of their new initiatives to reduce employee absenteeism

The results of the four-day working week stated a 55% increase in workers' ability at work and 73% of workers said they had greater satisfaction with their time. Both of these factors could lead to reducing the massive £340 billion price tag of employee disengagement.

Disengagement is the term used to describe workers who have become uninterested in their work and therefore their productivity decreases. A shorter working week is one potential solution for increasing employee engagement and decreasing absenteeism. 

Expert Market spoke to 50 North American and European businesses about their employee absence in December 2022 and January 2023. The companies were also asked about their initiatives to combat absenteeism.

The findings show that 48% of companies had a remote/flexible working policy. As found in our Workplace Study from August 2022, many employers state that flexible working helps increase happiness, productivity, and a better work-life balance. It could also positively impact hiring and retaining employees, with many now actively seeking roles that take this into account as well as other wellbeing benefits such as mental health support and monetary bonus schemes. 

As workplace wellness programs increase in popularity and generational workplace trends, including the four-day week, continue to shift the focus onto a healthier work-life balance. Businesses will be forced to improve workplace wellness or risk facing greater costs due to absenteeism. 

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Nitish Mathur

Digital Marketing Expert

Nitish is the CEO of 3Cans. A food blogger turned Growth Marketer, with a knack for tongue-in-cheek content and co-author of "The Growth Hacking Book 1 & 2", he helps companies hone their brands through everything digital. 

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