Dozens of companies are testing a 4-day week in the UK

Thousands of UK workers face a shortened week as a large-scale pilot project kicks off a four-day work week.

Starting this week, more than 3,000 workers across 70 companies across multiple industries will be given an extra day off each week in exchange for staying 100% productive at work.

Organized by 4 Day Week Global, the six-month trial is considered the largest experiment of its kind in the world.

“What’s most exciting about the pilot is that we have a wide range of business sectors including hospitality, retail, telecom, marketing and more,” Joe Ryle, campaigns director for the UK arm of 4 Day Week, told CBS MoneyWatch. “There’s a real mix, and we hope this will show that the four-day workweek is a possibility across the economy in the longer term.”

Participating employers range from companies in the education sector to banking, IT, marketing, retail and hospitality companies. The initiative is based on the 100-80-100 rule, which allows workers to earn 100% of their wages for 80% of their time when they perform 100% of the time.

Employers have been keen to test programs that offer employees more flexibility and a better work-life balance Workers were quitting their jobs at record rates as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 surged.

The so-called Great Retreat has forced companies to find themselves new ways to recruit and retain talentincluding raising wages and enabling more remote work.

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Recruitment and Retention Advantage

Taking an entire calendar day out of the workweek is another option companies can use as an incentive to get job seekers to work for them.

“We’ve seen a growing appetite for short-time work,” Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global, told CBS MoneyWatch. “Executives and executives are drawn to this idea as they see it gives them a competitive advantage. If they can do this without sacrificing performance or priorities, they can gain an advantage in recruitment and retention.”

O’Connor believes the COVID-19 pandemic has helped generate widespread interest in the program.

“Because of the pandemic, managers are more open-minded. They’ve learned that they can trust their employees as we get out of this remote work revolution,” he said. “They had to figure out how to better measure output and what work is getting done.”

Expectations on the part of employees have also changed dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic.

“People’s expectations of an appropriate work-life balance have changed; they see this as possible in a way that they didn’t have before the pandemic,” O’Connor said.

Even hospitality businesses, including bars and restaurants, are testing whether they can give their employees an extra day off each week without cutting their wages by finding ways to serve customers more efficiently.

Platte’s Fish and Chips in Wells-next-the-Sea, a port town on the North Norfolk coast in England, is giving its workers a full paid day off every week starting this week.

“Platten gets the value, the team gets the time,” manager Luke Platten said in a statement on the company’s website.

He believes that employees will be happier with their jobs and therefore more motivated to work efficiently and provide quality service.

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A happier workforce

Juliet Schor, a sociology professor at Boston College and lead researcher on the pilot project, expects positive outcomes, including greater job satisfaction and an improved quality of life for participating workers.

“The four-day work week is widely viewed as a triple dividend policy that helps employees, businesses and the climate,” she said in a statement.

The growing acceptance of remote work and now a shorter work week has challenged traditional perceptions and beliefs about work.

Even companies in the banking and financial services industries are softening their stance on remote working, and at least one bank is participating in the four-day workweek pilot.

Charity Bank CEO Ed Siegel said he’s ready to keep up with current trends.

“The 20th-century concept of a five-day work week is no longer best for 21st-century business,” Siegel said in a statement. “We firmly believe that a four-day work week with no pay or benefits will create a happier workforce and have an equal positive impact on company productivity, customer experience and our social mission.”

The UK study follows similar experiments in other parts of the world.

From 2015-2019 Reykjavik City Council and Icelandic Government tested the concept in response to pressure from trade unions and civil society organisations. The studies involved 2,500 workers and the results were mostly positive.

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