Scores of companies across the UK are adopting a four-day working week with no loss of pay for staff after the pandemic caused managers to rethink their approach to work.
About 70 UK companies with more than 3,300 workers will this week start a six-month trial to test whether a four-day week can be adopted without a corresponding loss of productivity.
Several companies such as Aim-listed tech firm WANdisco and online bank Atom have already implemented similar schemes in the hope that fewer working days will boost productivity in the time when people are at work, as well as raise staff morale.
The pilot, which bills itself as the biggest flexible working experiment of its kind, has been launched by the 4 Day Week Global campaign group, alongside think-tank Autonomy and researchers at Cambridge university, Oxford university and Boston College.
The launch of the trial comes after a backlash by some bosses against flexible working. Tesla chief executive Elon Musk last week told staff to return to the office for a minimum of 40 hours a week, according to an email first reported by Reuters. Civil servants have also been urged to return to offices in Whitehall by senior ministers.
Companies that have signed up for the scheme range from education and consultancy businesses to banking, IT, retail and recruitment groups. Each has agreed to allow researchers to measure the impact on productivity and wellbeing, as well as on the environment and gender equality. Four-day week trials are also expected to begin later this year in Scotland and Spain.
Joe O’Connor, chief executive of 4 Day Week Global, said that the UK was “at the crest of a wave of global momentum behind the four-day week”. He added that more companies recognised 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”.
Researchers will look at how employees respond to having an extra day off, including factors such as stress, job and life satisfaction, health, sleep, energy use and travel.
Ed Siegel, chief executive of Charity Bank, which is taking part in the pilot, said “the pandemic really moved the goalposts” for flexible working.
“The 20th-century concept of a five-day working week is no longer the best fit for 21st-century business,” he said. “We firmly believe that a four-day week with no change to salary or benefits will create a happier workforce and will have an equally positive impact on business productivity, customer experience and our social mission.”
Other companies that have signed up to the trial include games maker Hutch, manufacturer Rivelin Robotics, digital marketing group Loud Mouth Media, car parts supplier Eurowagens, loan provider Evolution Money, recruiter Girling Jones and Yo Telecom.
Platten’s Fish and Chips in Wells-next-the-Sea, north Norfolk, will also take part in the pilot, with staff rotating their days with two days on followed by two days off.