UK companies launching four-day workweek campaign as movement gains momentum

 Some 30 companies in the U.K. are taking part in a six-month trial to test a four-day workweek. 

The campaign was launched by 4 Day Week Global in collaboration with the 4 Day Week UK Campaign, researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University, Boston College, and the think tank Autonomy. 

4 Day Week Global, a New Zealand-based non-profit, says employees at companies participating in this program will see no loss in pay. Participants are being asked to maintain 100% productivity for 80% of their time.  

Offices, coworking spaces on the river island of Nantes (north-western France). (Photo by: Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

"Work is changing because we're now all working remotely, or flexibly, or a combination of the two," Charlotte Lockhart, founder and CEO of 4 Day Week Global told FOX Business. "This (program) isn't necessarily exclusive of that. This is about saying we can use some of those things that we have learned around how we measure productivity, how we value people working at their jobs when we can't see them, and using the tools and the lessons from the pandemic to find a pathway in terms of how we can do our jobs in less time." 

Joe Connor, pilot program manager for 4 Day Week Global, told FOX Business the organization offers companies support, training, networking, mentoring, research support for signing up.  

"Our expectation is that the results are likely to be in line with what most of the data that we’ve seen around the world on this [says], which is that reduced work time can have serious benefits for burnout, stress, and overwork," O’Connor said.    

Coworkers collaborating in an office.  (iStock)

Discussion over a four-day workweek has gathered momentum in recent years and some countries have already embraced different models of shorter hours. O’Connor said that demand and interest in a four-day workweek have "exponentially increased" during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"A big factor in this – which maybe wasn't the case two or three years ago – is recruitment and retention," O’Connor said. "You know, more and more companies are coming to the (four-day) workweek idea who maybe had offered their employees remote working or flexible working or some version of that, and that was a competitive advantage for them. Now it's almost a competitive disadvantage if you don't offer that.

In 2019, Microsoft tested out a four-day workweek experiment in Japan and found there was a major increase in productivity levels when work hours were cut to promote a better work-life balance. Employees actually sold more, while the company reduced spending on overhead costs. 

In September, Scotland announced plans to trial a four-day workweek while Spain, New Zealand, Japan, and Iceland have previously adopted their own trials. 

The shift to fewer hours supposedly boasts a number of benefits, including increased productivity and overall better attitudes among workers. 

However, not all countries have found success from the model, according to the German outlet Deutsche Welle.

A tired young businessman working at home. (iStock)

Sweden’s trial met mixed results, mainly from opposition to the plan among employers, and the plan was not renewed for a longer period. 

In most cases, the reduction is not a flat day less but rather is spread over a number of days: In Sweden’s case, the hours were chopped from each day, resulting in five days of six-hour shifts while others embrace free afternoons. 

FOX Business’ Peter Aitken contributed to this report. 

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