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World’s largest trial in the UK: 86 percent want to keep 4-day week

The world’s largest trial of a 4-day week in the UK has got off to a successful start and is already showing very positive results. So positive, in fact, that 86 percent of the companies surveyed are considering retaining the reduction in working hours with full pay after the trial phase. Back in the summer, CNN Business checked with employees and participating companies: The new daily routine is “phenomenal”.

Since June 2022, 3,300 employees in 70 companies and organizations in the United Kingdom have been working 80 percent of their normal working hours and receiving full pay. The trial is one of a number of experiments investigating the effects of shorter working hours. For example, the biggest trial to date of a 4-day week in Iceland was an overwhelming success. Field trials also started in Ireland or Scotland. CNN Business checked in with the participating British companies in early August and found similar success: The majority of employees want to keep the reduced working hours even after the end of the test phase. This is because employees are already feeling the benefits after the past eight weeks, or as one participant in the trial describes it:

“The five-day week is a 20th century concept that is no longer suitable for the 21st century.”

Now, a survey conducted by 4-Day-Week-Global confirms this: 86 percent of the companies that took part in the survey (41 companies) are considering keeping the shorter working hours after the test phase. For 88 percent, the new model is working “well” and 95 percent said productivity has remained the same or improved.

UK 4-day week trial: Work shorter hours for the same salary

The trial is organized by 4-Day-Week-Global, together with the think tank “Autonomy”. Researchers from the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and Boston College are accompanying the field trial. They are studying the impact of shorter working hours on productivity, employee well-being, the environment and gender equality. Employees are expected to follow the “100:80:100 model.” They receive 100 percent of the pay for 80 percent of the time. In return, they are expected to try to maintain 100 percent productivity. The trial is to run from June to November, when companies can decide whether to stick with the new working hours model or return to longer hours.

The companies are very diverse, both in terms of size and fields of activity. These range, for example, from education, IT and online retail to automotive supply services, skin care and the hospitality industry.

“Essentially, they are laying the groundwork for the future of work by putting the four-day workweek into practice in companies of all sizes and nearly every industry, telling us exactly what they are finding in the process,” says Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global of the survey results.

The new daily routine is “phenomenal”

After the first eight weeks, CNN Business checked in with several companies and learned from some employees that they are already “feeling happier, healthier and doing their jobs better.” Lisa Gilbert, a manager at a credit provider, for example, describes the new routine to CNN Business as “phenomenal” and “life-changing.” She says she can really enjoy the weekend because she can now use Fridays to get housework or other obligations done – without feeling guilty. 

Other respondents say the extra day made it possible to “pursue new hobbies, fulfil long-standing ambitions or simply invest more time in their relationships,” according to CNN Business. While some employees used the time to take cooking classes or piano lessons, others went fishing, exercised or devoted themselves to volunteer work. For example, Mark Howland, marketing and communications director at a charity bank, told the online magazine:

“On my day off, I’d go for pretty long bike rides, take care of myself, take time off, and then have the whole weekend to do things around the house and spend time with family.”

From a corporate balance sheet perspective, the shorter hours also have benefits. For example, Claire Daniels, CEO of Trio Media, said in the 4-Day-Week-Global survey:

“The four-day trial week has been extremely successful for us so far. Productivity has remained high, with an increase in well-being for the team, along with a 44% improvement in our company’s financial performance.”

Shorter meetings, more concentrated work

The changeover was not smooth everywhere. At one London PR agency, it was even “really chaotic,” as Managing Director Samantha Losey recounts. But after two weeks, her team has developed successful methods to achieve the same results in the shorter time available. These include shorter meetings and periods for more focused work. She expects 75 percent of the company will be able to maintain productivity over the course of the six-month experiment – allowing them to keep the four-day work week.

“The team is fighting incredibly hard for this so far,” she says.

According to the 4-Day-Week-Global survey, the transition was smooth for 78 percent of companies and a major challenge for only 2 percent. Nicci Russell, managing director of Waterwise, for example, said, “It wasn’t a walk in the park at first, but no big change ever is, and we were well briefed and prepared by the 4-Day-Week-Global team. We’ve all had to work at it—some weeks are easier than others, and things like annual leave can make it harder to fit everything in—but we’re much happier with it now overall than when we started.”

This finding is also consistent with the evaluation in the Icelandic experiment. There, it was also shown that the most effective methods were very specifically adapted to the respective workplace: for example, fewer or shorter meetings or a better distribution of tasks between the staff members. The nursing staff changed shift patterns and some offices closed earlier on Fridays because there was less to do.

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