Working four days a week sounds like a dream, but it could soon become a reality.
This month, more than 3,300 employees at 70 British companies began a six-month trial to experience the four-day week. All workers will receive the same salary as if they had worked for the full five days. Known as the 100:80:100 model, employees will be paid 100 percent for working 80 percent of the time, for 100 percent productivity.
This initiative is the brainchild of 4 Day Week Global, a non-profit organization that is currently conducting similar experiments in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland. 4 Day Week Global offers the British pilot in partnership with Autonomy, a UK-based research centre, and researchers from the University of Cambridge, Oxford University and Boston College.
“The UK is at the height of a wave of global momentum behind the four-day week,” says Joe O’Connor, CEO of rocket-based 4 Day Week Global. “The effect of the ‘Big Quitting’ now proves that workers from a range of industries can achieve better results while working for a shorter and smarter time.”
From a Norfolk Chibby restaurant to a North London brewery to an animation studio in Dundee – the companies involved in the UK experience are just as diverse. However, all companies hope to experience revolutionary benefits from participating in the experiment.
The question is, is work someday as beneficial to us as evangelicals claim – and what about the impact on our cities?
Our mental health
We Brits are known for our noses at sharpening attitudes. It can be argued that our penchant for hard work has made the UK the economic power it is today.
But all work and no play has a price. In the UK, the total number of days lost in 2018 due to absenteeism attributable to work stress, depression or anxiety was 15.4 million, an increase of nearly three million from the previous year.
Now, he suggests, a four-day work week can relieve some of that mental stress. When Microsoft introduced a four-day week to its Japanese employees in 2019, employee stress levels fell by 7 percent. A similar experiment conducted by the New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian resulted in employees feeling greater overall satisfaction with their lives.
James is an employee of Resilience Brokers, an east London-based climate finance firm that has been working on a four-day week model since October 2021. “With the extra time in my week, I can connect more with nature, i.e. research shows improve personal well-being and imagination in the workplace,” as he says.
Happy employee, happy job – just by working one day less per week.
One argument in favor of a four-day week is that it will give workers more time and energy to dedicate to their loved ones. Testimonials from the experience of a four-day work week in Iceland from 2015-2019 that celebrates renewed relationships: from grandparents who spend more time with grandchildren, parents who no longer need foster care, and spouses who share errands.
One Icelandic couple said, “I’m more likely to take the lead and do whatever is needed, move or whatever… I’m more likely to simply do these things.”
But it seems we can become better colleagues in the process. Sienna O’Rourke is the Marketing Director for Pressure Drop Brewery in North London, which is currently participating in the four-day workweek trial.
“It’s only been a week since the experiment, and we’re already starting to see the positive effects on employee morale,” she says. “We had to get better at planning and communicating across departments to get all of this done, so I think it will strengthen our working relationships.”
The transition to a four-day work week naturally raises concerns about maintaining productivity, especially in conservative circles. Jacob Rees-Mogg is an outspoken critic of post-coronavirus work habits and has been known to leave negative reviews on the desks of his colleagues who were working from home when he came to check on the troops.
“I am concerned that wanting to quit on Mondays and Fridays is an indication that people think the work week is shorter than it really is,” said Reese-Mogg stylistically.
But Stephen Passmore, CEO of Resilience Brokers, notes that giving employees a longer weekend leaves them “more present, focused and creative in their times in the office.”
Experiments with a four-day workweek in Iceland from 2015-2019 confirm Passmore’s findings: productivity remained the same, and even improved, across the majority of pilot workplaces. Microsoft also reported a 40% increase in the productivity of its Japanese employees.
Not surprisingly, Labor has historically opposed the Conservative Party in their support of the four-day work week. The change was a major policy change in Labor’s 2019 general election manifesto. Research by the 4 Day Week campaign found that half of “red wall” voters would be more likely to vote for Labor in a future general election if the party supported the plan.
But the poll also found that 40% of Labor voters were likely to vote the Conservative Party if they supported the proposal. Whether Labor includes a four-day work week in its next statement is up for debate, but it seems important that any party ignore politics that could affect political loyalty, turning red into blue, or crucially for Labour. From blues to reds.
The environmental benefits of a four-day workweek are a surprisingly big bonus to the system. In the same Microsoft experiment in Japan, electricity use fell 23 percent in the office and employees printed 59 percent fewer paper pages. A 2021 report commissioned by 4 Day Week Global showed that switching to a four-day working week could reduce UK carbon emissions by 127 million tons per year by 2025. This is equivalent to taking 27 million cars off the road.
While some environmentalists worry that working four days a week will push more to go on carbon-intensive weekends, others see interrelated benefits. Back in April, Anna Diskey launched a petition calling for the government to adopt a four-day work week. Over the course of four days – apparently the magic number – nearly 30,000 people signed the petition.
Anna says: “The science is clear that we need to do everything we can to cut emissions, if we can do that by going four days a week and have better well-being and productivity in the process, surely it’s a total no-brainer?”
For Joe Ryle, Campaign Manager for the 4-Day Workweek, the many benefits of working fewer days are, in fact, “too great to ignore”, and the team is already planning their next step, when trial successes are achieved, not if they do.
“We will present the results to MPs in Parliament, then campaign for all political parties to legislate for a maximum of 32 working hours per week. It will not happen overnight, but this is the future of work as we know it,” Ryle explains.
live in london
The hustle and bustle of travelers in London’s core business districts on a weekday is an unmistakable part of our capital’s murals. In contrast, the city on the weekend is a ghost town. The doors of the subway stations are empty and the streets are hardly crowded with tourists.
With so many people now working from home, local businesses are already suffering from the economic downturn due to low demand. Moving to a four-day work week would strip another opportunity to serve and make money.
On Monday, Diane Wehrle, CEO of retail analytics firm Springboard, warned that if working from home continues at current levels, turnout could remain permanently 10 percent lower than it was before.
However, Stephen Passmore focuses on the positive: “When people spend more time working in a hybrid style, they work more in the suburbs, so we see more of the booming high streets in the London suburbs, in smaller communities.” Money is still spent, it is distributed near the house.