There were mixed emotions when it was announced earlier this year that 70 businesses in the UK were going to participate in piloting a four-day working week as part of the world’s biggest trial on this new format of working.
Excitement and anticipation from the 3,300 workers who were about to enjoy long weekends for the next six months contrasted greatly with the apprehension many managers and business owners felt about what lay ahead. Participants would be working eight hours a day to make it a 32 hour week for the same pay as their traditional five-day week. No wonder the workers were excited.
Businesses from a variety of sectors
Opinion was divided among business leaders and industry experts. Some thought the trial wouldn’t work, Thursdays would be the new Fridays, identified as day where motivation levels and productivity drop. Others believed it would succeed and become the new norm. The diverse range of businesses selected to participate came from a variety of sectors and included a fish and chip shop, charity bank, software company and tax specialists. While some of the other participants came from digital marketing, catering, recruitment, housing, education and skincare.
The trial started during the first week in June and is organised by 4 Day Week Global in collaboration with the thinktank Autonomy, the 4 Day Week Campaign, and researchers at Oxford University, Cambridge University and Boston College. As well as the UK there were pilot programmes running in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and the USA. The trial is based on the 100:80:100 model. Which means 100% pay for 80% of the time with a commitment to maintain 100% productivity.
The doubters have been proved wrong and business owners who were concerned pre-pilot needn’t have been. The recent report revealed that businesses participating in the four-day working week trial have declared it a resounding success. Productivity levels increased for 46% of businesses and remained the same for 49%. Almost 90% of firms want to continue working the compressed week format after the trial ends in November. Only 2% of businesses found the shorter week challenging to adjust to.
Flexibility is key
The CEO of 4 Day Week Global, Joe O’Connor, said: “We are learning that for many it is a fairly smooth transition and for some there are some understandable hurdles – especially among those which have comparatively fixed or inflexible practices, systems or cultures which date back well into the last century.
“While for most organisations the pilot prompts many pleasing discoveries and outcomes – a lot of businesses have more flexibility and nimbleness among their people and teams that leaders often know at the outset – there is friction for others, and this can be based on a variety of factors, many of which can be addressed or substantially improved in the pilot itself.”
Joe Dance, ecology associate at participating business Tyler Grange, wasn’t optimistic before the trial but says she is now a believer:
“I’ve well and truly been proven wrong, and life – both professional and personal – is much better, and more balanced and fulfilling, thanks to the move to the four-day week. We all certainly seem calmer and more refreshed on Monday mornings, ready for the working week ahead. Even better, our clients are also happy. I haven’t received any negative feedback at all.
“I’m certainly a four-day working week convert and hope that it’s adopted permanently, here at Tyler Grange, when the UK pilot comes to an end.”
Another satisfied participant is Sharon Platts, chief people officer for Outcomes First Group, who said:
“The four-day week pilot has been transformational for us so far. We’ve been delighted to see productivity and output increase and have also been able to make it work in our education and care services, which we thought would be far more challenging. While it’s still early days, our confidence in continuing beyond the trial is growing and the impact on colleague wellbeing has been palpable.”
It's great to hear such positive news about the four-day working week pilot programme. As with most things it isn’t suitable for everyone and depends on the sector and type of job. However, with so many positives, there will be more businesses willing to adapt to the new format, and with energy prices continuing to surge, who can blame them?
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