Four-day working week: 3,300 employees in the UK launch the largest trial of its kind

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The four-day week seems to have happened anytime for years. But for some 3,300 employees in the UK, it is now a reality.

Some 70 UK businesses and organizations have signed up for the biggest four-day week-long trial ever, which starts Monday and runs for six months until January 2023.

The trial is organized by 4 Day Week Globalas well as the Autonomy think tank, the 4 Day Week campaign and researchers from Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College who will collect and analyze the results.

Researchers will work with each organization to measure the impact of reduced hours on the productivity and well-being of its workers, as well as the impact on the environment and gender equality.

Participants will work one day less per week while receiving the same salary.

According to the organizations running the pilot, employees must follow “the 100:80:100 model – 100% of salary for 80% of the time, in exchange for a commitment to maintain at least 100% productivity”. .

“By moving first, we get a lot of benefits,” said Paddy Lambros, head of human resources and talent at tech company Sensat, which has already started the trial.

“We’ve seen an increase in applications, we’ve seen an increase in sentiment, we’ve been able to hire more diverse people, and we’ve been able to set our priorities as a company more effectively,” he told EuronewsNext.

“When we put all of these things together, we see a huge upside to embracing what we think is bound to happen anyway, sooner than everyone else.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sensat staff were in the office five days a week and did not hire telecommuters.

Sensat will see how the trial goes before deciding whether or not to continue with the four-day week – and they anticipate some potential problems.

Lambros said the company has to work a little harder to maintain social relationships between co-workers because of the remoteness, and the four-day week exacerbates that.

“We haven’t seen a drop in productivity. But some of the things that can be sacrificed are opportunities for the team to talk more socially. We need to be more proactive in making sure people spend enough time together to build strong productive relationships.”

‘What else should we challenge?’

Those involved in organizing this pilot point to the sudden and necessary changes in work habits and expectations caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“If we don’t need to be in the office and can be just as productive at home, what else should we challenge in our traditional ways of working? Jennifer Lecomber-Peace, head of human resources at Adzooma, told Euronews Next.

“And who’s to say you can’t be as productive in four days as in five?”

She is “quietly confident” the four-day week trial will work in her business, which, like Sensat, was office-based before the pandemic.

“There is so much research on how work expands to fill time. Anyone skeptical of the four-day week should check out studies in Iceland and Japan to see the positive impact it has. may have”.

His company offered the four-day week on an optional basis. Unsurprisingly, there was a universal listing.

Other participating organizations include the Royal Society of Biology, a brewery called Pressure Drop and a fish and chip shop.

The largest previous study was an “overwhelming success”

The largest previous study of this type took place in Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland. More than 2,500 workers participated in this trial.

It was hailed as an “overwhelming success”, with workers saying they were less stressed, reduced the risk of burnout and had no negative effect on productivity or services.

Conducted in 2015 and 2016, the trials led to significant changes in the country.

Last year, 86 percent of workers in Iceland worked shorter weeks or had contracts that would allow them to reduce their hours.

At the time, Will Stronge, research director at Autonomy, said: “This study shows that the world’s largest ever trial of a shorter working week in the public sector was by all accounts a resounding success. “.

COVID has created ‘different expectations’

“Workers have emerged from the pandemic with different expectations of what constitutes a healthy work-life balance,” said Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global.

“Sometimes it takes a big disruptor to dislodge deep-seated societal and cultural norms. That’s what we’re seeing with the traditional five-day workweek following the COVID-induced flexible working revolution.”

“Those who think we’re going to go back to how things were two years ago are engaged in ‘pie in the sky’ thinking – the four-day week is an idea whose time has come,” he said. she declared.

Dr Mark Downs, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Biology, said: “The pandemic has taught many of us that long-standing work practices can change quickly, including dependence on office space. physical”.

The trial will run alongside similar pilot projects in Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

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