The results of the UK’s four-day working week pilot were published this morning, with the vast majority of companies who took park opting to continue the new working pattern.
There were 61 companies that took part in the trial. Out of those, a staggering 56 have extended the four-day week.
Director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, Joe Ryle, has called the six-month trial a “major breakthrough moment.”
He also said: “We’re really pleased with the results and hopefully it does show that the time to roll out a four-day week more widely has surely come.”
The employees who participated in the trial received 100 percent of their salary for working 80 percent of their previous five-day week.
Attar Naderi, Associate Director Europe & MENA at Laserfiche, says:
“Over 3,000 UK employees have enjoyed an extra day each week to spend with their families, on their hobbies, …or simply in bed. The catch? There isn’t one—employers will pay their full salaries, too.
“Since lockdown, we’ve seen another labour revolution as flexible, technology-supported working explodes in popularity. But while the four-day week grabs headlines, its fixed hours may still be too restrictive for some. If business leaders want to offer true flexibility, should they instead relax established shift patterns and let employees choose when they work. If employers want to provide true flexibility, they need to offer interchangeable hours – and the technological resources to facilitate this.
“Ultimately, to discover what works best for your workforce, it may be worth trialling a period of flexible working—whether through subscribing to the four-day model, or even allowing employees to control their own diaries. You might find it to be one of your best workplace policies yet.”
Laura Baldwin, President at O’Reilly, says:
“When it comes to work schedules, what people really care about is flexibility. It’s not about four days or five. Either is still very prescriptive and does not account for the varied reasons many employees want flexibility – for example, to manage five-day-a-week school pick-up hours. For the burnt-out, overworked employees who went above and beyond during the pandemic, fewer hours, worked flexibly across five days is likely to mean more than a four-day slog.
“For businesses, the four-day week can also create complicated scheduling nightmares – especially for smaller organisations. While some larger organisations can implement A/B schedules where, for example, half of the employees are off on the Friday and the other half, Monday, this won’t work for smaller teams that need cover all week. Instead, there needs to be more effort invested in creating real cultures of flexibility, which can best serve employees without forgetting the needs of customers.
“Quite simply, customers expect (at least) a five-day-a-week service and until every organisation moves to four days as standard there will be a very hard balancing act to cut to four. Dropping the ball on customer experience to pay lip service to flexibility is a losing strategy for all.
“If you’re thinking about a four-day workweek, use it as a prompt to ask, what is it that you are really trying to solve? Are you trying to create a shortcut to flexibility? Will this rather drastic move really create the flexibility your employees want? Will it enable work-life balance, but also get the work done? Could it be you are looking for a sticking plaster to bigger issues? Rather than embracing trust and flexibility for your teams, are you just seeking another way to exert control behind a facade of a four-day gimmick?”
Tina Woods, CEO & Co-Founder of Business for Health, comments:
“Given the growing interest amongst business leaders around boosting employee health, it is unsurprising to see such interest in the UK’s four-day working week trial — with its potential to deliver an even greater transformation to our working lives than the post-pandemic uptake of remote working.
“The direct health gains of offering enhanced flexibility and freedom to staff, where people might choose to spend time with family, exercise, volunteer, and/or attend medical appointments – are significant. It would make caregiving, personal development, and managing modern life easier for people across the economic spectrum. For employers, it could be the key to creating a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce.
“With the release of the trial’s results, it is likely that we will see SMEs and start-ups, many of whom are struggling to secure talent amidst ongoing labour shortages, become the first early adopter of a four-day model in order to gain a competitive edge in recruitment.
However, a four-day working week is far from a ‘one size fits all’ solution:
Tina Woods continues: “The fact remains that some industries, businesses, and specific jobs will be unable to adopt this model such as emergency services and public transport workers.
“Ultimately, it is incredibly exciting to see growing understanding of how enhancing health and wellbeing in the workplace can be a key driver of productivity and growth in a business, and how offering greater flexibility in how, where, and when we work can deliver this transformation.”
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.