UK Trialing a Four Day Week as The Future of Work Edges Ever Closer

uk four day week

The four-day work week movement has been building for some time as more and more countries and companies come around to the idea that there might be something to not having your employees constantly operating on the verge of burnout.

The UK has been confirmed as the latest country where the four-day work week will be trialled. Workers participating in the trial will receive 100% of their usual pay for working 80% of their usual hours.

The pilot programme, announced this week, will run for six months and study the impact of the shift on business productivity, employee wellbeing, environmental impact, and gender equality. Researchers from the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge will be collecting the data and working with the non-profit advocacy group 4 Day Week Global.

They hope to recruit 30 UK businesses to participate in the trial by the time it is set to launch in June of this year.

“The four-day week challenges the current model of work and helps companies move away from simply measuring how long people are ‘at work’, to a sharper focus on the output being produced,” said Joe O’Connor, manager of the pilot scheme for 4 Day Week Global.

Similar studies are currently being held in the US, Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Scotland, which is, for the time being, part of the UK, has been running its own trial, funded by the Scottish government, since September of 2021.

Countries like Spain, Iceland, and Sweden have also successfully run their own four-day work week trials and found that employee satisfaction and mental health increased while productivity remained the same or increased.

A century ago, the working week slowly changed from a six day week to a five day week, and campaigners say that a further shift is badly overdue.

There are a number of ways that a four day week can be approached. The classic would be reducing hours, to around 30 per week, spread over five days and paying employees their normal salary. Employers can also reduce hours and pay, although this is less popular. Other options include keeping the same number of hours but spreading them across four days instead of five.

This last approach is the one that the UK trial will adopt, seeing UK workers work 35 hours over four days during the trial.

The shift towards a more equitable and flexible work culture has been accelerated by the great resignation, which has seen millions of workers around the work leave their jobs for more favourable working conditions.

Couple this with the vast changes to working arrangements sparked by the pandemic, with working from home where possible now a requirement for most industries, and it appears that the world is ready for a big shake up in the way that we work.

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