The UK is currently housing the world’s largest trial of a four-day working week.
4 Day Week Global is organizing a pilot where 3,300 workers from 70 companies work just 80% of their hours – for the same pay – to see if it is beneficial for wellbeing, productivity, as well as workplace diversity.
The UK pilot comes on the back of a four-year study in Iceland, which found that shorter working weeks with no reduction in workload were positive for productivity, stress and work-life balance.
4 Day Week Global’s UK trial is taking place for six months, but when it comes to an end in November, the 70 companies taking part will decide if they want to keep the shorter working week or return to their previous working patterns.
The concept of a shorter working week is already catching on. Individual employers like e-commerce giant Bolt and Panasonic have implemented four-day weeks, and 4 Day Week Global is launching a similar six-month pilot in the US and Canada.
However, as the concept becomes more popular, it is important to figure out if a four-day week is delivering on its promise.
Now 4 Day Week Global (with the help of CNN Business) has shared some insights into how employers and their workers are faring in the first eight weeks of the UK study.
“Phenomenal” and “life changing”
CNN Business interviewed some of the participants; the response was the four-day week has been “phenomenal” and “lifechanging”, and some workers shared it has successfully tackled their burnout.
Stress and burnout are core reasons why many of the businesses took part in the trial in the first place, as well as why Bolt made its shorter working week pilot a permanent fixture.
Lisa Gilbert works at Charity Bank and is a caregiver for her son and her two elderly parents. She shared: “I can really enjoy my weekend now because I’ve got my Friday for my chores and my other bits and pieces”.
As a result, when it comes to organizing fun weekend activities, “I find that I’m saying ‘yes we can’ as opposed to ‘no sorry we can’t”.
Other participants noted that having an extra day of the weekend meant they were able to take up new hobbies – examples include training for a triathlon, fishing, roller skating, and cooking classes – without missing out on precious time with their families.
Another Charity Bank employee, Mark Howland, who is the director of marketing and communications, commented: “With my day off I’ve been going on quite long bike rides, looking after myself, taking some time out and then having the whole weekend to get things done around the house and to spend time with family.”
He concluded that it was unlikely the bank would get rid of the four-day week; “The five-day working week is a 20th century concept, which is no longer fit for the 21st century”.
How to make the four-day week work
While the feedback collected by CNN Business was overwhelmingly positive, it is clear that the employers faced some challenges in switching from a five to four-day week.
Unity’s managing director Samantha Losey shared that the first few weeks were “genuinely chaotic”. “To be totally honest with you, those first two weeks — really a mess. We were all over the shop,” she said.
But slowly Unity’s employees got used to the new way of working, and leadership implemented changes to ensure that the four-day week worked for them. This was something a common challenge among the participants.
Examples of changes the employers made included shorter meeting times (for both external and internal meetings), introducing focus work time so that teams could do deep, longer-term project work without constant distraction from emails and messages.
Introducing so-called “deep work time”, meant the team at 5 Squirrels “started realizing that they were smashing projects that they had always put on the back burner,” according to founder and CEO, Gary Conroy.
Other ways that employers can help workers remain productive while working fewer hours is ensuring technology was actually making their working lives easier, not harder – this is according to recent research by ClickUp.
Watch this space, the future of work could be a four-day week in the UK and beyond.
Want to hear more from UNLEASH? Sign up now for free access to all our online content, exclusive reports, as well as discounts for our events.