Is working less for the same pay the future? Thousands trial four-day working week in UK

Companies that have made the transition to a 32 hour work-week see increases in productivity, higher talent attraction and retention, deeper customer engagement, and improved employee health, say campaigners. Credit: Pexels

The Covid pandemic has accelerated changes to the way we work with more businesses embracing flexible working as employers seek a better work/life balance.

Along with working from home, a four-day week has become a much touted alternative working model that, campaigners say, improves productivity, staff retention and employee wellbeing. A happier worker, they say, is a better worker.

Following successful schemes in other countries, companies across the UK and Ireland are taking part in a four-day working week trial to see whether workers can maintain 100% productivity while working for 20% less time - with no reduction in pay - as part of an international study.

From June, businesses from office workers to local chippies will start trialling the four day week for more than 3,000 employees.

Many workers workers have switched to hybrid working. Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

In the UK, more than 60 companies are taking part in the six-month trial which will start in June 2022 and coordinated by 4 Day Week Global in partnership with the UK think tank Autonomy, the 4 Day Week Campaign and researchers at Cambridge University, Boston College and Oxford University.

According to 4 Day Week, who are campaigning for shorter working weeks, companies with reduced hours of working, self-report large reductions in sick days along with increases in productivity, higher talent attraction and retention, deeper customer engagement, and improved employee health.

Microsoft Japan saw a 40% gain in employee satisfaction and productivity during their trial of a 4 Day Week. Bolt, which has gone permanent with its 4 Day Week found that 86% of staff increased their productivity and efficiency.

In Iceland, four-day working week trials were considered an "overwhelming success" with 86% of the country’s workforce now working shorter hours or gaining the right to shorten their hours.

The trials, in which workers were paid the same amount for shorter hours, took place between 2015 and 2019, and researchers found productivity remained the same or improved in the majority of workplaces.

Bus during rush hour on a busy Monday morning outside Victoria Station Credit: Press Association

How will it work? 

As the campaign suggests, employees work four days instead of five, for the same pay an often for the same hours.

For example, if you usually work a 9-5 shift for five days, that’s 32 hours a week. 

This scheme would mean you could work 9-6.30pm over four days - working the same 32 hours but getting an extra day off. 

At the moment, the campaign is not open to companies that work over 32 hours a week as squeezing more hours into four days would defeat the object of improving work/life balance.