UK's four-day week in jeopardy as pilot study gets off to rocky start

15 August 2022, 13:16

70 companies in the UK have been trialling a four-day week
70 companies in the UK have been trialling a four-day week. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

The world's biggest trial of a four-day working week has so far produced mixed results in the UK, with some companies questioning whether they will continue with the scheme when the pilot ends in December.

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Over 3,000 people working for a varied list of 70 businesses have been working a four-day week since June, with no loss of pay.

The nationwide six-month trial was designed to see if a shorter work week would result in higher productivity and better employee health, as well as making roles more attractive to jobseekers.

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Companies taking part include IT company Happy, book-themed gift shop Bookishly and a local fish and chip shop in Norfolk.

Whilst some companies involved in the trial have seen benefits, others have said the change caused confusion amongst staff and difficulties in putting rotas together, the Telegraph reports.

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Samantha Losey, who runs communications company Unity, told the paper her business may not be able to continue with the arrangement past the trial.

"I'm questioning whether this is the right thing for us long term," she said.

"It's been bumpy for sure."

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She said something that made it particularly challenging was that many other companies across the world were still operating under a five-day week.

She also said it was made harder by staff taking different days off.

Another boss, chief executive of Trio Media Claire Daniels, said the pilot created difficulties for hiring new staff as she did not know whether the company was continuing with the trial or not.

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However, Matt Bolton, creative director at Mox London, said the four day week had been the "best business decision" he has ever made.

Joe O Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global - which is partly responsible for organising the trial - said the feedback had so far been "overwhelmingly positive".

He added that no one was expecting a 100 per cent success rate, and said "ongoing support" - in the form of workshops, mentoring and networking - was being provided to companies.

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"The UK is at the crest of a wave of global momentum behind the 4 day week," said Mr O Connor at the start of the trial in June.

"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."