Multiple businesses in the UK are operating or trialling, 4 day working weeks while retaining their usual 5-day week salary.
The four-day working week is being touted by some as the answer to Britain’s “productivity problem”. The average British worker takes only a 34-minute lunch break and works 10 hours overtime each week (often, this is unpaid), making British working hours some of the longest in Europe. Yet UK productivity lags seriously behind our European neighbours, who tend to work fewer hours. France recently made it illegal to expect workers to answer emails out of hours, and the average French worker produces more by the end of Thursday than their UK counterparts do in a full week.
Back in September of this year, Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), used her speech to the organisation’s 150th annual gathering to insist that evolving technology and communications should cut the number hours spent at work.
O’Grady said: “In the 19th century, unions campaigned for an eight-hour day. In the 20th century, we won the right to a two-day weekend and paid holidays. So, for the 21st century, let’s lift our ambition again. I believe that in this century we can win a four-day working week, with decent pay for everyone. It’s time to share the wealth from new technology, not allow those at the top to grab it for themselves.”
O’Grady has stated that the advances in technology will allows workers to have the extra day off, while businesses retain their productivity and profit. Artificial intelligence, robotics and automation could provide a £200bn UK economic boost in the next decade.
British working practices have also taken their toll on the nation’s health and happiness. More than half a million workers in the UK were signed off with work-related stress or anxiety last year. Moreover, the work landscape itself is changing, not only is 4 day working weeks good for health and happiness of staff, the scientific evidence has said that working shorter hours makes us more productive.
A trial conducted in New Zealand conducted at trustee company Perpetual Guardian between March and April 2018 encouraged a major discussion of the four-day work week. The aim, according to the company’s founder and CEO, Andrew Barnes, was to both improve productivity and help employees better manage their lives. The trial was studied by academics at the Auckland University of Technology and the University of Auckland and the results were encouraging: work remained up to standard while teamwork and work engagement increased, and stress decreased.
However, there were some concerns brought up by the trial, including additional stress on certain employees, including a group having to break the terms of the trial in order to keep up with a busy period. Additionally, while there was no drop-in work quality, there was not an improvement either. Away from their desks, the staff responded very well to the extra time off, with the exceptions of individuals who enjoyed the social aspect of work or found it difficult to stay occupied without the extra day in the office.
More and more companies are deliberating between trialling this futuristic plan to see if it is a fit for their business, will you?