Dozens of companies and thousands of workers are participating in what’s being touted as the largest test of a four-day workweek ever.
For the next six months, 70 companies and 3,300 employees in the U.K. will try working just four days a week. They’ll put in a total of 32 hours and get paid for 40—with the expectation that productivity will remain the same as a traditional five-day, 40-hour workweek.
The effort is being put on by 4 Day Week Global, the 4 Day Week Campaign, the U.K.-based think tank Autonomy, and researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are recognizing that the new frontier for competition is quality of life, and that reduced-hour, output-focused working is the vehicle to give them a competitive edge,” said Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global.
The companies include restaurants, medium-sized businesses and larger corporations. They encompass several different industries ranging from banking and financial services to IT software training, professional development, automotive supply, online retail and more.
Researchers will work with the companies to gauge the effects of working four days on overall productivity as well as the overall wellbeing of employees. Other factors under scrutiny include the impact on the environment and gender equality.
“The four-day week is generally considered to be a triple dividend policy – helping employees, companies, and the climate. Our research efforts will be digging into all of this,” said Juliet Schor, a professor of sociology at Boston College and the lead researcher on the pilot.
Government-backed four-day workweek trials will also get underway in Spain and Scotland later this year.
Businesses will approach the four-day workweek differently. At one restaurant, employees will work two days and then get two days off instead of having a three-day weekend. Other companies will have employees work four days straight before getting a three-day weekend. Some employees may opt to spread their 32 hours out over five days, working shorter shifts to increase their time with families.
The pilot program is, in part, a response to the so-called “Great Resignation,” which has pushed businesses toward more flexible work hours and better benefits.
A similar trial program is underway in the U.S. and Canada. The six-month pilot kicked off in April.