Four-day week begins for thousands of UK workers

More than 70 companies across the country will allow employees to work a four-day week after the pandemic shifted the goalposts in office life.

Over 3,000 people who work for 70 companies, including the Royal Society of Biology and a Norfolk fish-and-chips shop, will have a shorter week without a lost payment from Monday to December under a nationwide pilot scheme that could transform working lives work UK.

Sources said at least one FTSE 100 company with hundreds of thousands of employees is also getting closer to its own plans to test a six-month, four-day workweek at one of its overseas offices.

The move could be unveiled shortly, but would be separate from the nationwide program that begins Monday and claims to be the world’s largest four-day pilot. It will be led by researchers from Cambridge, Oxford and Boston College, who will work with Autonomy Think Tank and the 4 Day Week UK Campaign to measure the impact of a shorter week.

Businesses can choose which day they ask employees to pick up, with many assuming they use a shift system so someone is always available. One executive whose business is in the pilot said his bosses were reluctant to sign up for the pilot because they feared half the team would be off twice a week. However, he said that “we can withdraw at any time”.

“We will analyze how employees respond to an extra day off in terms of stress and burnout, work and life satisfaction, health, sleep, energy use, travel and many other aspects of life,” said Juliet Schor, the lead researcher on the pilot and Professor at Boston College.

Ed Siegel, chief executive of charity bank, which is participating in the process, said: “We’ve long been an advocate of flexible working, but the pandemic has really shifted the goalposts in that regard. Day week seems like a natural next step.”

UK companies aren’t the only ones considering a radical change in the working week. A trial in Iceland that cut some public sector work from 40 hours to 35 hours has already been branded a “resounding success” by researchers, while in Spain the government is using €50m from the EU’s bailout fund to complete a three-year trial with around 200 companies to be financed and 6,000 employees.

A survey by Be The Business last year found that more than 50 percent of companies were open to abandoning the traditional work week, citing claims that working hours reduced can increase employee productivity.

However, any decision to reduce working hours is likely to be controversial, with some bosses complaining that post-pandemic attitudes towards work have become too soft as flexible working becomes the norm. Christian Ulbrich, chief executive of property giant JLL, said last month workers are now demanding “pop star” treatment and four-day weekends. Four-day week begins for thousands of UK workers

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