More than 3,300 employees in Great Britain have been working only four days a week since Monday, but will continue to receive their full salary. Around 70 companies are involved in the pilot project, which will initially run for six months. They cover a wide spectrum of business: from a fish and chip restaurant to a tax consultant and a specialized software developer to a bank.
Trying out the four-day week is a natural next step after the pandemic, said Charity Bank chief executive Ed Siegel. “The 20th-century concept of a five-day workweek is no longer the best solution for the 21st-century economy.” Impact on customer productivity and experiences.
After more than two years, in which normal everyday work was repeatedly disrupted by pandemic-related lockdowns and precautionary measures, companies and employees in many places are thinking about suitable structures for a successful working life. Working hours and patterns have changed over time.
In Germany, until the 1950s, Saturday was also a normal working day for most employees. That changed with a campaign by the trade union federation under the motto “Dad belongs to me on Saturdays”. A five-day system was introduced in the USA in the 1930s.
A four-day week has been brought into play again and again for years. It is intended to give employees more time to relax, but also to ensure that they are much more focused on their work during their working hours. A number of companies have experienced this in temporary trials, from Icelandic government to Britain’s Atom Bank to Microsoft Japan. The experiences of the corona pandemic have given new impetus to ideas in many companies.
According to the organization “4 Day Week Global”, which supports the project, the British pilot project is the largest of its kind to date. It is accompanied by scientists from the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, Boston College in the USA and the think tank Autonomy. The participating companies follow an approach that can be described as 100:80:100. There is 100 percent of the salary for 80 percent of the time worked so far, but 100 percent productivity is still expected.
“The UK trial is of historic proportions,” said Juliet Schor, senior researcher at 4 Day Week Global and an economist at Boston College. “Many jobs, especially office jobs, involve activities that involve low productivity and that can be omitted without harming business,” she explained, explaining the basis of the new model. In other words, a problem with the five-day week is that work is simply stretched to fit the available time. “Holding on to a rigid, centuries-old time system doesn’t make sense,” Schor stressed.
Clare Doherty agrees. She works in administration at Pressure Drop Brewery in London, a pilot participant. She is confident that she can get her job done in four days, she told the BBC. “This will eliminate the few minutes of scrolling through the internet because you have to be a little bit more focused to get what needs to be done in the time that is available.”
The participating companies use different models. In some companies, employees have the choice of not working Monday or Friday in addition to the previous weekend, while others stretch the days off over the week. At Platte’s Fish and Chips, two days in the restaurant are followed by two days off.
The accompanying scientists hope that the study will provide a multitude of insights in very different areas. Feelings of stress, the risk of burnout, satisfaction with the job, but also with life in general, health, sleep, commuting, energy consumption are just a few of them, said Schor. Many observers would assume that the four-day week would help employees, companies and the environment. “Our research will focus on all of these areas.” Further trials in Spain and Scotland are to follow in the course of the year.
However, not all executives are convinced that more free time and flexibility at work are the right way. In a note to employees last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk made it clear that he expects to see them at work in the office building for at least 40 hours each week. If you don’t want to, you can pack your things.
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