The UK has become the backdrop of the biggest ever four-day week pilot in the world, as 70 companies and more than 3300 employees are trying their hand at a new way of working. The pilot is based on the idea that working less but smarter means not only no loss of pay, but also that workers stand to gain a lot in areas such as health and wellbeing. British workers are internationally known for putting in some of the longest hours a week, aka "all work and no play," and with any pilot programme designed to gain in many other aspects, participating workers can (hopefully) look forward to more spare time.
Each four-day-a-week pilot follows the '100% pay, 80% time, and 100% productivity' ™️ model, and instead of measuring a company's success by hours worked, it will be about results. The new way of thinking when it comes to our work week is from 4 Day Week Global, who have already led other programmes around the world. Businesses, employees, researchers and governments all have a role to play in creating the new workweek, the foundation argues, and a new business improvement strategy should focus on working smarter, not longer.
"After the international excitement over the success of our 2018 pilot in New Zealand, it became clear to Andrew and I there was a hunger for more information, research and support about how to successfully reduce work time without a loss in productivity or pay," Charlotte Lockhart, who together with Andrew Barnes established the initiative, told Breaking Perspectives. She continued: "And so the 4 Day Week Global Foundation was born. Through this we hope to change the world by changing the way the world works."
“ And so the 4 Day Week Global Foundation was born. Through this we hope to change the world by changing the way the world works"
The four-day workweek has reportedly boosted productivity in several industries around the world, but it will be especially interesting to see what happens in the UK as people are so used to working so hard. "We Brits are known for our nose to the grindstone attitudes," reported the UK Evening Standard for example on the UK’s trial, arguing how it has led to the economic powerhouse the UK is today. But the article also highlighted how this work setting has come at a cost, such as high levels of absenteeism, work-related stress and depression. Looking at potential positive and negative effects of the nationwide pilot project on the economy, worker relations, the planet and on life in London, the author went on to write: "It sounds like the stuff of dreams, but may soon be the stuff of reality."
What’s not to like
A range of benefits have already emerged from successful trials of four-day work weeks in, for example, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and Europe. Some of them have even been quite surprising. For example, studies have found that 78% of employees are reported to be feeling happier, more engaged at work and less stressed. Employees around the world would feel more energetic, efficient, stronger and more motivated at work. They also report higher job satisfaction, brand loyalty and organisational commitment, as well as improvements in work-life balance, wellbeing and improved physical and mental health.
There also appears to be a better division of care tasks between mothers and fathers, and the costs for childcare would decrease. In addition to statistics such as 63% of companies finding it easier to attract and retain talent, there are improvements in leadership, companies say it is easier to stand out, and be innovative and forward-thinking; plus there is talk of environmental benefits with less commuting and less energy consumption.
Investments will have to be made in the wellbeing of the most important assets of any company: the people of a company, says Lockhart. This new work paradigm offers the potential for improved business productivity and employee health, as well as stronger families and communities, the organisation has found through its pilots. The new way of working also offers opportunities for improved gender equality and a more sustainable work environment.