A total of 70 British companies have begun trial runs of a scheme that allows their employees to work for four days each week, rather than the usual five.
Around 3,000 people are understood to be involved in the trial, which it is hoped will have a positive impact on staff morale and on their productivity, despite their working fewer hours.
The fundamental idea behind the initiative is that teams of employees can work 80 per cent of what has been their normal working week, while still receiving 100 per cent of their pay.
In return for being offered this arrangement, staff are asked to remain committed to being equally as productive within the scope of a four-day week as they would expect to be over five normal working days.
“We have long been a champion of flexible working, but the pandemic really moved the goalposts in this regard,” explained Ed Siegel, chief executive of Charity Bank, which is among the companies taking part in the scheme.
“For Charity Bank the move to a four-day week seems a natural next step. The 20th-century concept of a five-day working week is no longer the best fit for 21st-century business.”
A wide range of companies from different parts of the UK economy are taking part in the trial of four-day working weeks, including building firms, food makers, hospitality operators and recruitment service providers.
Various groups have been involved in organising the initiative, including researchers from Boston College, as well as Cambridge and Oxford universities, alongside the 4 Day Week UK Campaign, and the organisation 4 Day Week Global.
Throughout the duration of the scheme, researchers will be assessing how the switch to a four-day working week affects those involved.
“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,” explained Juliet Schor from Boston College, who is the lead researcher on the project.
“The UK is at the crest of a wave of global momentum behind the four-day week,” commented Joe O’Connor, chief executive of 4 Day Week Global.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are recognising that the new frontier for competition is quality of life, and that reduced-hour, output-focused working is the vehicle to give them a competitive edge,” he added.