- Over 3,000 employees at 60 companies from a wide range of businesses and charities across the UK have signed up to take part in the world’s biggest four-day week trial.
- During the trial, employees will be asked to maintain 100% productivity for 80% of their time. If it goes well, businesses could make the schedule permanent.
- Many countries are now looking at the move to four-day working weeks to enhance productivity and improve employee’s work-life balance.
As businesses emerge from the uncertainty caused due to the pandemic and practices such as working from home become a norm, many companies are looking for a shorter workweek to increase employees’ productivity and work-life balance, and what will happen if it continues once more people return to the office.
Over 3,000 employees at 60 companies from different sectors and charities across the UK have signed up to take part in the world’s biggest four-day week trial, without any reduction in pay and which will be running from June to December.
2022 Kalkine Media®
The plan will be overseen by academics at Oxford and Cambridge universities and Boston College in the US, along with the campaign groups -- the 4 Day Week UK Campaign, 4 Day Week Global, and the Autonomy thinktank. During the trial, the employees will be asked to maintain 100% productivity for 80% of their time and if it goes well businesses could make the schedule permanent. The four-day week trial in the UK will run along with similar trials in the US, Australia, Canada, Ireland, and New Zealand.
The businesses set to participate in the trial, include Advice Direct Scotland, CMG Technologies, Big Potato Games, Autonomy, Royal Society of Biology, Yo Telecom, Platten’s Fish and Chips, Outcomes First Group, Adzooma, Eurowagens, and Trio Media.
In 2019, the biggest four-day week trial was conducted by Iceland’s government and Reykyavik City Council, with the participation of 2,500 workers. The trial was considered an overwhelming success with an increase in productivity, with employees reporting being less stressed, reduced risk of burnout, improved health, and work-life balance.
The Four-day working week
A four-day working week means that the worker will be allowed to work one day less in a week but will be still working for the same number of hours with no reduction in pay and other benefits. For example, workers will be allowed to work for 10-hour shifts spaced out over four days, instead of eight-hour shifts for five days.
Various reports in this regard have highlighted that at some point productivity and work-life balance decreases as the number of work hour increases. Many companies are now looking at the move to four-day working weeks to enhance productivity and improve employees’ work-life balance after the pandemic has totally changed the way organizations and employees work. More and more businesses around the world are trying to execute a new model of work that will focus on quality over quantity of hours.
Countries that have embraced four-day week working
Last month, Belgium PM Alexander de Croo announced a four-day week of working, instead of the usual five days without loss of income, as part of its changes in labour laws in the post-Covid era. The move was taken with an aim to make its notoriously rigid labour market more flexible and improve work-life balance. The reform will give rights to employees to turn off their work devices and ignore messages after working hours without any fear of reprisal.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) slashed its five-day workweek to a four and half-day, which came into effect on 1 January 2022. It became the first country to adopt a four-day workweek with an aim to improve productivity and work-life balance as well as to attract more investment and match global markets. Further, workers will be offered flexible working hours and the option to work from home on Friday.
Last year, the Spanish government has also launched a four-day workweek trial for companies interested in the idea. So far, the government is satisfied with the outcomes and has agreed to a four-day workweek (32 hours) for three years without cutting employees’ salaries.
RELATED READ: Top 5 dividend-paying consumer stocks to keep an eye on
After seeing overwhelming success with an increase in productivity and employees reporting being less stressed and reduced risk of burnout, Ireland also started with a four-day workweek trial from January 2022, without any pay loss. Under this pilot scheme, participating companies will receive all the training and support they need to manage work with employees, and the Irish government will also fund research to assess the scheme’s impact on social, economic, environmental, and other areas.
2022 Kalkine Media®
- New Zealand
New Zealand became one of the first countries to implement a four-day workweek policy. PM Jacinda Ardern suggested that companies consider this policy and other flexible working options and since then many companies adopted the policy without cutting employees’ salaries.
Workers at Barnes’s company Perpetual Guardian have been working four hours a week since 2018, meanwhile, 81 employees of Unilever are currently taking part in a year-long four-day work week trial.
Japan has always actively talked about work efficiency and quality. In June 2021, the Japanese government asked companies to adopt the four-day workweek model with an aim to improve employees’ work-life balance and productivity. There are various reasons that adopting this policy could be beneficial for the country, where death by overwork claims many lives. Japanese tech giant Panasonic is the latest firm to adopt the four-day workweek model.
According to reports, Scotland is currently brainstorming ideas on the execution of the four-day workweek policy after the success of Iceland’s largest four-day workweek trial from 2015 to 2019. The country’s trial is due to start in 2023. Research from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) revealed that around 80% of the people surveyed in Scotland think that the four-day workweek model with no pay cuts would have a positive effect on their wellbeing.
Several reports and research have declared that a four-day working week has many benefits, such as increased productivity, employees getting more time to spend with their family and pets, which has a positive impact on their physical and mental development. But sadly, the working hours’ module doesn’t fit all industries and sectors. It remains to be seen how countries, including the UK, react to the change.