Workers in the U.K. are about to have slightly more time on their hands.
From this week until December, 3,300 workers at more than 70 U.K. organizations will receive 100% of their regular paychecks in exchange for just 80% of their usual time spent working. In exchange, they’ll maintain 100% of their productivity. This is the latest iteration of the advocacy group 4 Day Week Global’s experiment in giving workers a four-day work week with a three-day weekend.
4 Day Week Global partnered with the think tank Autonomy, the 4 Day Week Campaign, and researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College to produce the trial, which the researchers are using to measure the sociological impact of giving workers a longer weekend. Among the factors the researchers will observe: how a four-day work week schedule impacts employee stress levels, energy use, travel and sleep patterns.
The charities and businesses involved in the experiment include a number of different sectors, ranging from the London-based brewing company Pressure Drop, to the Royal Society of Biology, to a Norfolk-based fish-and-chip shop.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are recognizing that the new frontier for competition is quality of life, and that reduced-hour, output-focused working is the vehicle to give them a competitive edge,” Joe O’Connor, chief executive of 4 Day Week Global, said in a statement.
Government-supported four-day work week trials are also set to start later this year in Spain and Scotland.
Some U.S.-based companies, driven by concern for burnout and wanting to empower workers in a tight labor market in the pandemic, have turned to a shorter work week for different reasons, offering meeting-free Fridays or half-day Fridays to employees. Shake Shack and Kickstarter, for example, have both toyed with the idea of a four-day work week, and online children’s clothes retailer Primary has been using a four-day work week model since May 2020.
Some companies, including Unilever, Panasonic and Microsoft, have also tried out the four-day work week during the pandemic. Unilever’s trial is ongoing, Panasonic has decided to make the four-day work week optional for Japanese employees, and Microsoft said it saw worker productivity shoot up 40% during its trial. Chelsea Fagan, the CEO of the media company The Financial Diet, has spoken several times about her company's move to embrace a four-day work week last year. Her conclusion: "The idea of a five-day work week now seems insane looking back."
Depending on the organization, there can be real benefits to cutting work hours for some workers. Some studies have found that long working hours can make workers less productive, showing that employees produce less after about 50 hours a week. A study of 2,000 office workers found that, despite working eight hours a day, many workers were only productive for just three of them.
“The four day week is not a wild idea anymore. For an organization, it’s now a discussion as to should we have it, and could we have it,” 4 Day Week Global co-founder Andrew Barnes told The Org last year.
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