A typical working day involves an early-morning wake-up, a stressful commute, and the standard 9-5. We might be late to the party, but the modern UK office is finally changing. Here’s to the four-day working week!
100 UK companies are adopting a four-day working week, with no loss of pay. Commencing in June 2022, the trial was organised by 4 Day Week Global, thinktank Autonomy, the 4 Day Week Campaign, and researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College. Fingers crossed the 3,300 employees taking part will prove the benefits of this transformative policy!
What is the four-day work week?
This means that a workforce is only required to work four days out of the week, usually Monday to Thursday. Many employers have shortened the entire week, meaning staff will work eight-hour shifts, totaling 32 hours per week. Since the pandemic, the five-day model has been described as a ‘hangover from an earlier economic age’. The new trial is based on the 100:80:100 model – 100% of pay for 80% of the time, in exchange for maintaining 100% productivity.
The two biggest companies who successfully reduced employee hours, were Atom Bank and global marketing firm Awin, who collectively employ 900 people in the UK.
“Over the course of the last year and a half, we have not only seen a tremendous increase in employee wellness and well-being but concurrently, our customer service and relations, as well as talent relations and retention also have benefited.”Adam Ross, Chief Executive of Awin
How will the success of the trial be measured?
Researchers will measure impacts on the participating business’ productivity and employee well being, as well as environmental implications and gender inequality.
“We’ll be analysing 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,” she said.Juliet Schor, a professor of sociology at Boston College and lead researcher on the pilot.
Is my company likely to offer this new initiative?
Early results revealed that 88% of the first 100 companies said the new four-day working week was beneficial. 95% also said they found increased levels of productivity. The trial is ending soon, and results will be published in the new year.
Most of the companies taking part fall into the marketing, retail and technology sectors. However, more manufacturing and construction employers are set to sign up to the campaign. From the mid-trial results, we can only hope that most companies will be offering a shorter working week by next year!
How can we all benefit from this new initiative?
Unless your business is already fully remote, in reducing the hours your staff are physically in-office, overhead business costs will also decrease. With the rising coss of living, an extra day without paying for utilities and resources will be a blessing for many business owners.
“It’s not uncommon for office bills, staff perks, commuter advantages, and competitive pay to add up to a significant sum. On top of that, add to your total expenses the cost of providing complimentary lunches, happy hours, and any other charges that help develop your company’s culture.”Mark Chappel of Formspal
Companies with a four-day working week have found increases in employee motivation, as well as improvement in their staff’s time management. With an extra day for recreational activities and family time, employees are more productive and engaged when in-office, compared to when working a full five-day week.
Improved Employee Well-being and Happiness
Who doesn’t love an extra weekend day? Not only are working hours reduced, it gives us the opportunity to recover from the burnout after a stressful week. Employees will have more time to spend with family and friends, time to relax and improve their mental well-being. Having flexibility to prioritise things that we need and that make us happy, paves the way for happier home-life and work-life.
“In switching to a four-day working week, our employees are able to get an early start on their weekends, which frees time for recreational activities, and even opens days that they are able to receive mental health and other personal services. This has led to a dramatic increase in our employee satisfaction, and our retention rates.”Adele Archer, Founder of Eterneva
Are other seeing the benefits of a four-day working week?
Post Covid-19, Belgium implemented a shortened week for many companies back in February 2022. Employees are still expected to work a 38-hour week, so the extra hours are to be made up on working days. The Prime Minister of Belgium announced, “The goal is to give people and companies more freedom to arrange their work time.”
Ireland’s equivalent campaign is ‘Four Day Week Ireland’, and advocates for “a gradual, steady, managed transition to a shorter working week for all workers, in the private and public sectors.”
Back in 2021, Unilever conducted a year-long trial to reduced working hours by 20%, without loss of pay for staff. Nick Bangs, Managing Director of Unilever, said they aimed to “measure performance on output not time” – a view which is gaining slow momentum in NZ compared to other countries.
Last year saw Spain propose a €50m funded 3-year project, to allow companies to reduce working house to 32 hours per week. The government intend to make up the lost funds.
Renowned for its fast-paced corporate culture, some of Japan’s largest companies are also starting a four-day working week trial. Microsoft and Panasonic are some of the big names taking part. The move comes in the hopes of boosting the Japanese economy, as people have more time to spend their income. Similarly, the birth rates in Japan are falling – an extra weekend day might give couples in Japan some time alone (wink, wink)!
Despite being one of the first nations to embrace the change on 1st of January 2022, their approach isn’t a total overhaul. The federal government transitioned into a four-and-a-half day working week, as opposed to a full three days off – here, 12pm Friday marks the start of the weekend.
The change is long overdue…
The concept of the ‘weekend’ came about during the 1800s, when the traditional farming economy transitioned into the Industrial Revolution. However, the 48hr break we know today was actually created in the 1930s, less than a century ago! In the UK, the ‘weekend’ is credited to Mancunian, William Marsden, who ran the committee that obtained the Saturday half-holiday.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have adapted to the working-from-home model, and adopted other operational changes to stay profitable. Perhaps in embracing these new working habits, society overall will achieve a better work-life balance.
Let’s hope everyone’s workplace rolls out the four-day working week initiative, permanently! Let’s work to live instead of living to work!
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