Staff at 30 UK firms will work a four-day week for SAME salary

Staff at 30 UK firms will work a four-day week for SAME salary as six-month pilot begins TODAY: Campaigners say it will create better work-life balance… but critics warn of more stress from squeezing more work into fewer hours

  • The trial will see staff complete the usual number of hours but over four days
  • More than 30 companies are taking part in what some say is a ‘bold new future’
  • Similar trials to be held in the USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand

Staff working at more than 30 firms across the UK will work four-day weeks over the next six months for the same salary, as an experimental pilot gets underway.

Campaigners calling for a reduction in the number of working days have said it will create a better work-life balance but critics have warned it will lead to more stress as employees attempt to squeeze more work into fewer hours.

The trial, led by 4 Day Week Global, will see staff members completing the same amount of work, and up to 35 hours each week, but split over four days rather than five.

While lockdowns have made a large number of employees reevaluate the tricky work-life balance, a proposed four-day working week has been designed to offer employees flexible hours and increase productivity during working hours.

Joe O’Connor, pilot programme manager for 4 Day Week Global, said the concept will ‘herald in a bold new future of work’ during 2022.

Companies taking part in the trial include Big Potato Games, a board game company based in East London, Blink, a digital marketing agency in Norwich, and Charlton Morris, a specialist search firm.

Campaigners calling for a reduction in the number of working days have said it will create a better work-life balance but critics have warned it will lead to more stress as employees attempt to squeeze more work into fewer hours

Morrisons and Unilever are are reportedly considering switching to a four-day week, while the British arm of camera company Canon is to take part in a six month trial run by academics at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, reports the Guardian. 

Finance firm Atom Bank has already made the shift to the shorter working week. 

Similar experiments are due to be held in the USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, while trials are already being conducted in Spain and Scotland.

Researchers have been arguing that benefits to a four-day week would also see staff return a more efficient work performance for their employers. 

Several influencer agencies are already operating a four-day working week, including Engage Hub, whose employees will have either a Wednesday or a Friday off, rotating every eight weeks.

In marketing, where jobs often offer higher salaries, workers deal with heavy workloads and competition, with many people working up to 60 hours a week. 

Sam O’Brien, Chief Marketing Officer at performance marketing platform Affise, said: ‘Those working in marketing can have the stress of competitors and keeping up to date with the digital world, which has not been easy during the course of the pandemic.

‘The effects of the past two years have resulted in many extra hours spent isolated, at home, and looking at computer screens while sitting in uncomfortable chairs- extremely bad for both your mental health, vision and posture.’

In Iceland, a four day working week trial was carried out, including at Reykjavík City Council, between 2015 and 2019 and labelled an ‘overwhelming success’ by researchers. Pictured: Radhus Reykjavikur (Reykjavik’s City Hall)

During the pandemic, it was believed that introducing a four-day working week would boost high street sales by an estimated £58billion, according to Affise.

This is because three-day weekends would give shoppers 20 per cent more time to buy, and see an expected spending increase related to hobbies, gardening and DIY.

Mr O’Brien added: ‘Starting a business takes a lot of time, energy, money, and creativity, and opting for a four-day week is one way many businesses choose to reduce expenses.’

In August 2019, Microsoft Japan implemented a four-day week giving their 2,300 employees five Fridays off in a row.

The company said productivity jumped 40 per cent, meetings were more efficient, and workers – who were also happier – took less time off.

Nine out of ten employees at the company said they preferred the shorter working week and other benefits, including a 23 per cent reduction in weekly electricity use, and a 59 per cent decrease in the number of pages printed by employees, which were also welcomed by employers. 

Finance firm Atom Bank has already made the shift to the shorter working week. Pictured: Atom Bank’s chief executive Mark Mullen

Mr O’Connor said: ‘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 program 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. 2022 will be the year that heralds in this bold new future of work.’ 

In Iceland, a four day working week trial was carried out between 2015 and 2019 and labelled an ‘overwhelming success’ by researchers.

Workplaces that took part, including at Reykjavík City Council which ran the trial, moved from 40 hour weeks to 36 or 35 hours with some reporting an improved level of productivity among employees.

The trial eventually involved more than 2,500 workers, equal to approximately 1 per cent of Iceland’s workforce. 

While campaigners have been pushing for a four-day working week, critics have argued it would create greater stress for workers who would be attempting to squeeze as much or more work into fewer hours.

Some say the concept would be impossible in customer facing jobs, or 24/7 operations including the NHS or emergency services where overtime payments would present an extra cost to employers or the taxpayer.

A trial of the four-day working week in France, for example, found workers were putting in the same amount of hours even with a day fewer and companies were having to pay them for their extra time. 

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