UK four-day working week trial begins with 70 companies
From fish and chips to large corporations, more than 3,300 workers at 70 companies will work 80% of their hours for 100% of their wages, provided they commit to maintaining 100% productivity.
The four-day working week is gaining ground in Europe. It’s time for Americans to take a serious look at it.
The six-month trial, coordinated by non-profit groups 4 Day Week Global and 4 Day Week UK Campaign, with researchers from Cambridge and Oxford universities and Boston College, and labor think tank Autonomy, comes as workplaces grapple with pandemic burnout and the phenomenon dubbed the “Great Resignation”.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are recognizing that the new frontier of competition is quality of life, and that shorter, results-oriented work is the way to give them an edge. competitive,” said Joe O’Connor. , Managing Director of 4 Day Week Global, said in a report. “The impact of the ‘Great Quit’ now proves that workers across a wide range of industries can produce better results while working shorter and smarter.”
Similar trials are expected to begin this year in Scotland, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada. Belgium announced plans in February to offer employees the option of requesting a four-day working week, as the government seeks to boost flexibility in the workplace amid the coronavirus crisis.
Belgium will offer employees a four-day working week
Caleb Hulme-Moir, who owns New Zealand-based PR firm Mana Communications, instituted a nine-day fortnight in early 2020, initially as a way to retain workers as his business slowed during pandemic shutdowns .
At first, they all took a 20% pay cut. Business rebounded quickly, however, and within a month they were back on full pay. The short week was so popular, however, that they kept it. His staff in Sydney and New Zealand’s capital, Wellington, alternate between four- and five-day weeks – a move he sees as a stepping stone for a small business that doesn’t yet have enough workers to move to a four-day week. week and always be available to customers every day of the week.
“I’ve always toyed with the idea of a short work week. It’s good for staff retention in a hot employee market,” he said. “People love it.”
Several large-scale trials of a four-day work week in Iceland between 2015 and 2019 found that workers were productive and happier, with fewer instances of stress and burnout.
In the United States, Rep. Mark Takano (D-California) has proposed a bill that would cut all standard workweeks to 32 hours, requiring overtime pay for anyone working beyond that. A number of companies in the United States have tried the four-day work week model.
Iceland has tested a 4-day working week. Employees were productive — and happier, according to the researchers.
The 40-hour workweek became standard in the United States after the Great Depression; the government saw it as a way to deal with an unemployment crisis by distributing work among more people. During the Industrial Revolution, it was not uncommon for workers to work six days, for 70 hours or more.
Automaker Henry Ford was among the first to switch to a five-day work week in 1926. Ford argued that its employees were more productive in fewer hours. In 1933, the Senate passed, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt supported, a bill to reduce the standard workweek to just 30 hours. He later changed his mind, amid a corporate outcry. The 40-hour week was legislated by Congress in 1940.
Back then, America had almost a 30-hour work week.
In the latest trial, involving 70 companies, researchers will measure the impact on the company’s productivity and the well-being of its workers, as well as the impact on the environment and gender equality.
“We will analyze how employees react to an extra day off, in terms of stress and burnout, job and life satisfaction, health, sleep, energy consumption, travel and many more. aspects of life,” said Juliet Schor, professor. of Sociology at Boston College and principal investigator of the trial.
The first day of the trial, Monday, was not entirely auspicious: it coincided with a strike by thousands of London transport workers that brought Britain capital at a standstillperhaps highlighting the pitfalls of travel.
Gillian Brockell contributed to this report.