The Four-day working week trial launches here in the UK

The benefits of a shorter workweek have been argued for many years, and it appears that more companies are now willing to take the risk as the Covid-19 pandemic begins to transform global working for the better.

Around 30 UK businesses are taking part in a six-month trial of a four-day week, in which employees will be paid the same as if they worked their regular five days.

The pilot scheme, which is being undertaken by the 4 Day Week campaign, think tank Autonomy, and researchers from Cambridge University, Oxford University, and Boston College, will test to see if employees can work at 100% efficiency for 80% of the time.

4 Day Week Global is conducting similar trials in Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand this year, and the Scottish and Spanish governments are launching similar pilots later this month.

Pilot programme manager, Joe O’Connor of 4 Day Week Global, thinks this year “will be the year that heralds in this bold new future of work”.

He added: “More and more businesses are moving to productivity-focused strategies to enable them to reduce worker hours without reducing pay.

“We are excited by the growing momentum and interest in our pilot programme and in the four-day week more broadly.

“The four-day week challenges the current model of work and helps companies move away from simply measuring how long people are ‘at work’, to a sharper focus on the output being produced.”

Researchers will work with each organisation to track productivity, employee well-being, environmental impact, and gender equality as part of the scheme.

Many studies have found that switching to a four-day workweek improves productivity and employee well-being.

According to researchers, the world’s largest-ever trial in Iceland between 2015 and 2019 was recently hailed as an “overwhelming success”, while in Japan, a trial at Microsoft saw productivity went up by 40%.

Some business owners who have previously made the switch, have never looked back, with Edinburgh restaurant, Aizle, reporting their best financial year after reducing their working week by one day, a considerable boost in staff retention and employee morale.

Graham Alcott, of Think Productive in Brighton and Hove morphed the five-day week into four extended weekdays and one Friday in four, reported “it’s actually enhanced the business rather than held it back.”

“What we’ve found over the last few years is that our people don’t burn out, we have an outstanding rate of growth within the business and for me that’s because of the four-day week,”

Owner of Wigan packaging firm Kate Hulley introduced a “compressed week”, where workers carry out 38 hours across Monday to Thursday, and since presenting the changes in 2019 things have been “going really well”.

“The staff can make personal appointments on a Friday and be more focussed between Monday to Thursday. As a business, we can get our outsourcing engineering crews in on a Friday so that we’re ready to start again on Monday.

Brendan Burchell, professor in social sciences at Cambridge University which is part of the scheme’s research team, said: “With the social and environmental benefits of the shorter working week becoming clearer, grassroots support more widespread, and technology available to maintain productivity, the time has come for more organisations to take the leap and unravel the practicalities.

“This scheme has tremendous potential to progress from conversations about the general advantages of a shorter working week to focussed discussions on how organisations can implement it in the best possible way.”

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