After an Iceland study showed last year that a four-day work week improved wellbeing and productivity, the UK also started its pilot. In the coming months it will turn out if and how this method fits the different types of employees and businesses. Although there might be concerns about a shorter work week, government-backed four-day week trials are also due to begin later this year in Spain and Scotland.
The UK launched its biggest pilot
In June more than 3,300 workers and 70 UK companies have begun working a 4-day week with no loss of pay in the biggest pilot in the world so far – facilitatemagazine.com reports. The 6 months pilot is based on the principle of the 100:80:100 model – 100% of the pay for 80% of the time, in exchange for a commitment to maintain at least 100% productivity.
From large corporates to companies providing products and services ranging – among others – from education to workplace consultancy, banking, care, financial services, IT software training, professional development and legal training are taking part in the pilot.
Researchers expect method will help employees, companies, and the climate
Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global, said: “As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are recognising 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. The impact of the ‘great resignation’ is now proving that workers from a diverse range of industries can produce better outcomes while working shorter and smarter.”
Researchers will work with participating organisations to measure the impact on productivity in the business and the wellbeing of its workers, as well as the impact on the environment and gender equality. Juliet Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College, and lead researcher on the pilot highlighted: “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.”
A tailor-made approach might be the key
Lawrence Mohiuddine, CEO, EMEA at Unispace, warned: “Just as we’ve learned that the 5-day work week isn’t viable for all, so too could the 4-day week be for some. If there’s one crucial takeaway from the pandemic, it’s that taking a catch-all approach to working-style mandates isn’t always the best option. People from different demographics and home lives will have different preferences and if the right balance in working styles is to be achieved there needs to be flexibility, rather than broadly dictating requirements for all.
Those living with housemates and family desire to be in the workplace
Mohiuddine also told facilitatemagazine.com that a study of 3,000 office workers and 2,750 employers across Europe found that 65% of those living with a spouse or partner and children preferred to be in the office, while 59% of those living alone also had a desire to be in the workplace rather than at home.
The study also found that – mainly to progress in their careers – the younger generation would be happier to return to the office if they had access to training and development programmes (cited by 80% of respondents aged 18-35). A further 81% of those living with housemates and 75% of those living with a spouse/partner and children also cited a desire to return if they could gain access to training.
4-day week vs flexibility
“The future workforce is flexible and while a 4-day working week is an innovative approach that should be explored, the voice of all talent pools needs to be listened to in today’s talent-short market. No single approach to working set-ups will meet the needs of everyone, but a flexible style that puts the power in the hands of today’s talent will be more desirable for a greater range of individuals”- Lawrence Mohiuddine pointed out.
Might backfire to meet expectations
Paul Modley, director of diversity, equity & inclusion at workforce solutions firm AMS, said: “The flexibility of being able to work 4 days a week will certainly help create a better work-life balance for some. However, this concept is new to individuals and businesses alike. The key hurdle to overcome if this is to be successful is the careful management of workloads. If staff are cutting their hours by 20% but their workload and delivery expectations remain the same, employers could face a scenario where people are struggling to meet expectations and failing to take breaks or working overtime during the new working week in order to gain an additional day off.”