One hundred companies in the UK have signed up to a permanent switch to a four-day working week without cutting any pay from employees.
The 4 Day Week Campaign hopes the companies, who combined employ 2,000 staff, will help inspire a transformative change for the country. The group is still encouraging other businesses to take part in the pilot, which sees employees work for 32 hours across four days.
Supporters of the four-day week say that companies can improve their productivity using this model, meaning they can get the same amount of work done in fewer hours. They also argue that the five-day working week is outdated - a ‘hangover’ from an earlier economic age which is no longer necessary.
Meanwhile, those who have already adopted the four-day policy have found that it is an effective way to attract new workers and retain staff.
So what is the four-day working week trial, which companies are taking part, and what’s been said? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is a four-day working week?
A four-day work week is pretty much how it sounds - a.k.a. staff would work for four days and get a three-day weekend. But what’s worth noting is that this doesn’t mean employers have to enforce the same working hours in a shorter period of time.
The 4 Day Week Campaign is instead calling for a 32 hour working week, which for most, would take the form of 8 hour days.
What’s also worth noting about the proposed new model is that, crucially, despite working fewer days and fewer hours, staff would see no cuts to their pay. The group argues that this is because a four-day week would actually improve productivity - meaning they can create the same output, or a higher output, in a shorter timescale.
What are the benefits?
The campaign outlines plenty of benefits to this new model - for workers, employers, and the society.
For workers, a four-day week reportedly helps with a better work-life balance which will encourage ‘happier and more fulfilled lives’. It allows more time for neglected aspects of life, such as rest, spending time with friends and family, hobbies, exercise, and admin tasks such as cleaning, shopping, running errands.
The 4 Day Week Campaign also says it will help with the cost of living, as it reduces the money spent on things such as childcare and commuting - and is accompanied by no loss of pay.
For employers, a key argument is that studies suggest a four-day week will increase productivity and encourage better performance, and as a pull-factor for staff, companies should be able to attract and retain greater talent amongst employees. Others point out that it will boost industries which rely on customers having free time, such as hospitality and tourism.
Meanwhile, there is also evidence that a four-day week decreases costs and therefore improves profits. According to a Henley Business School study in 2021, UK businesses would save an estimated, combined £104 billion a year if a four-day working week was implemented across the entire workforce.
In terms of how the change would benefit society, campaigners argue that it helps inspire:
- better mental and physical health
- gender equality, with more time for an equal share of childcare responsibilities traditionally given to women
- strengthened communities, with more time to build relationships and care for the vulnerable
There are also reportedly benefits to the environment. Research has shown that a four-day week could reduce the UK’s carbon footprint by 127 million tonnes per year, which is the equivalent of taking 27 million cars off the road.
Which companies are taking part?
The two biggest companies that have signed up to the new model are Atom Bank and global marketing company Awin, who each have about 450 staff in the UK. They have been accredited by the four-day week campaign, meaning they have demonstrated that they have genuinely reduced hours for workers rather than forcing them into longer days.
Most of the other companies that have adopted the new model are in sectors such as technology or events, but there are also non-profit organisations, consultancies, and manufacturing businesses. You can read the full list of participating employers here.
What has been said?
Adam Ross, chief executive of Awin, told The Guardian that switching to the four-day working week was “one of the most transformative initiatives we’ve seen in the history of the company”. He continued: “Over the course of the last year and a half, we have not only seen a tremendous increase in employee wellness and wellbeing but concurrently, our customer service and relations, as well as talent relations and retention also have benefited.”
Joe Ryle, UK director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, added: “We want to see a four-day week with no loss of pay become the normal way of working in this country by the end of the decade so we are aiming to sign up many more companies over the next few years. With many businesses struggling to afford 10% inflation pay rises, we’re starting to see increasing evidence that a four-day week with no loss of pay is being offered as an alternative solution.”
The campaign is also coordinating the world’s biggest pilot scheme for about 70 companies, which employ about 3,300 workers, to adopt the four-day week in a trial with researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, Boston college and thinktank Autonomy.
In September, 88% of those companies partaking said the four-day week was working “well” for their business at that stage of the trial. About 95% of the companies surveyed said productivity had either stayed the same or improved since the introduction.