The world’s largest trial of a 4-day week in the UK has got off to a successful start and is showing initial positive results. CNN Business questioned employees and participating companies: Many do not want to go back to the long working hours after the test phase – that’s how successful the reduction in working hours has been so far.
Since June 2022, 3,300 employees in 70 companies and organizations in the United Kingdom have been working 80 percent of their normal working hours and receiving full pay. The trial is one of a number of experiments investigating the effects of shorter working hours. For example, the biggest trial to date of a 4-day week in Iceland was an overwhelming success. Field trials also started in Ireland or Scotland. CNN Business checked in with the participating British companies in early August and found similar success: The majority of employees want to keep the reduced working hours even after the end of the test phase. This is because employees are already feeling the benefits after the past eight weeks, or as one participant in the trial describes it:
“THE FIVE-DAY WEEK IS A 20TH CENTURY CONCEPT THAT IS NO LONGER SUITABLE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY.”
UK 4-day week trial: Work shorter hours for the same salary
The trial is organized by 4-Day-Week-Global, together with the think tank “Autonomy”. Researchers from the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and Boston College are accompanying the field trial. They are studying the impact of shorter working hours on productivity, employee well-being, the environment and gender equality. Employees are expected to follow the “100:80:100 model.” They receive 100 percent of the pay for 80 percent of the time. In return, they are expected to try to maintain 100 percent productivity. The trial is to run from June to November, when companies can decide whether to stick with the new working hours model or return to longer hours.
The new daily routine is “phenomenal”
After the first eight weeks, CNN Business checked in with several companies and learned from some employees that they are already “feeling happier, healthier and doing their jobs better.” Lisa Gilbert, a manager at a credit provider, for example, describes the new routine to CNN Business as “phenomenal” and “life-changing.” She says she can really enjoy the weekend because she can now use Fridays to get housework or other obligations done – without feeling guilty.
Other respondents say the extra day made it possible to “pursue new hobbies, fulfil long-standing ambitions or simply invest more time in their relationships,” according to CNN Business. While some employees used the time to take cooking classes or piano lessons, others went fishing, exercised or devoted themselves to volunteer work. For example, Mark Howland, marketing and communications director at a charity bank, told the online magazine:
“ON MY DAY OFF, I’D GO FOR PRETTY LONG BIKE RIDES, TAKE CARE OF MYSELF, TAKE TIME OFF, AND THEN HAVE THE WHOLE WEEKEND TO DO THINGS AROUND THE HOUSE AND SPEND TIME WITH FAMILY.”
Shorter meetings, more concentrated work
The changeover was not smooth everywhere. At one London PR agency, it was even “really chaotic,” as Managing Director Samantha Losey recounts. But after two weeks, her team has developed successful methods to achieve the same results in the shorter time available. These include shorter meetings and periods for more focused work. She expects 75 percent of the company will be able to maintain productivity over the course of the six-month experiment – allowing them to keep the four-day work week.
“THE TEAM IS FIGHTING INCREDIBLY HARD FOR THIS SO FAR,” SHE SAYS.
This finding is also consistent with the evaluation in the Icelandic experiment. There, it was also shown that the most effective methods were very specifically adapted to the respective workplace: for example, fewer or shorter meetings or a better distribution of tasks between the staff members. The nursing staff changed shift patterns and some offices closed earlier on Fridays because there was less to do.