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Largest-Ever Four-Day Work Week Pilot Begins in U.K.

By:
Ruth Singleton
Published Date:
Jun 6, 2022

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On Monday, thousands of U.K. employees began a four-day work week as part of a pilot project that will last six months, CNN Business reported. The project, the largest of its kind, includes 3,300 workers spanning 70 companies, from financial service providers to a fish-and-chips shop. The workers will earn 100 percent of their salaries while working 80 percent of their usual work week. The project is a joint effort of two not-for-profits—4 Day Week Global and the 4 Day Week UK Campaign—and Autonomy, a think tank. According to the New York Times, researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College will announced the results in 2023. 

The Times quoted Juliet Schor, a sociology professor at Boston College and the lead researcher on the project, who said, “We’ll be analyzing how employees respond to having an extra day off, in terms of stress and burnout, job and life satisfaction, health, sleep, energy use, travel and many other aspects of life.”  

A global movement to shorten the work week was gaining popularity in the years before the pandemic. Now, as millions of employees have shifted to remote work as a result of the pandemic, the calls for greater flexibility have grown even more insistent. CNN reported in February that some companies had initiated a four-day work week in order to recruit talent in a competitive market for employees. 

Schor observed that working from home during the pandemic has been the main factor driving the growing momentum for a shorter work week. She said, “It made employers realize they could trust their workers." She also noted, “The companies that are really successful in this take activities off the plates of people. The most common work reorganization has to do with meetings—the excessive number of meetings, excessive length and lack of efficiency in meetings.” 

CNN quoted Sienna O'Rourke, the brand manager of Pressure Drop Brewing, one of the participants in the U.K. pilot, She said, "The pandemic [has] made us think a great deal about work and how people organize their lives," she said. "We're doing this to improve the lives of our staff and be part of a progressive change in the world." 

According to CNN, between 2015 and 2019, Iceland conducted a shorter-work week pilot involving 2,500 public sector workers involved in two large trials. Those trials found no corresponding drop in productivity among participants, and a dramatic increase in employee well-being. 

In 2018, a New Zealand firm that experimented with a four-day work week found that such a schedule did wonders for employee satisfaction and company loyalty, though the effects on productivity were mixed,

In 2020, Unilever's New Zealand branch launched an experiment whereby employees work just four days a week but were paid for five. According to the Independent, the company is yet to publish the results of the trial. 

According to CNN, government-backed trials are set to take place in Spain and Scotland later this year. 

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