Beginning in June, at least 30 companies in the United Kingdom will take part in a pilot of a four-day work week. Employees at these companies will work 32 hours per week rather than the standard 40, with no changes to their compensation or benefits.
As the program progresses over a six-month trial period, researchers will analyze its effects on employee productivity, along with other variables including employee wellbeing and the environmental impact.
While the results of the pilot remain to be seen, the group running the program has cited data that suggests it will benefit both businesses and employees.
“Studies have shown that productivity improves with corresponding gains in workers’ wellbeing,” Joe Ryle, the director of the Four Day Work Week Campaign in the U.K., told Bloomberg.
The UK-based company Autonomy conducted one such study last year, analyzing the productivity of more than 2,000 workers in Iceland who participated in a four-day work week pilot. The study found that among participating workforces, “productivity and service provision remained the same or improved.”
4 Day Week Global, the nonprofit driving the pilot program in the U.K., is planning similar programs in the U.S., Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
The timing of this program – and companies’ eagerness to participate in it – is far from a coincidence. The Great Resignation, in which an increasingly high volume of workers have been leaving their current employers, has created unforeseen challenges for many businesses. Employee wellbeing is at a premium, and the appeal of an extended weekend is one way for organizations to improve experience and subsequently retain talent.
With 68% of tech workers feeling more burned out during remote working, work-life balance will be a determining factor as employees decide whether to stay with their current employers or look for new opportunities.
Moreover, businesses have already spent the past two years rethinking the tenets of a productive workplace. The pandemic forced even the most old-fashioned employers to recognize that employees don’t have to be present in an office to be productive. As they look to the future, it’s the perfect time to also rethink the traditional Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 work schedule.
Improving work-life balance is an obvious benefit of the four-day work week, but not its sole focus. The program’s mission is to facilitate a broader change in philosophy, one that emphasizes output rather than time spent working.
For this shift to be successful, IT leaders must prioritize efficiency and proactively address the technological hurdles that impact productivity. Companies who test a four-day week will need to continuously gather employee sentiment, use that feedback to identify roadblocks, and streamline workflows so that employees can make the most of every hour they spend working.
With more pilot programs planned across the world, all signs point to a four-day work week becoming much more common, if not quite the global norm. It’s a promising trend for a more employee-driven future workplace – a workplace that values quality of work more than the quantity of hours spent working.