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Companies in UK Switching to Four-Day Work Week

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

Aleksandra Bienkowska reports on why the switch to a four day week is being described as a transformative change.

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One hundred UK companies have changed the five-day working system to a four-day week, encouraged by the 4 Day Week Campaign. The Campaign argues for a four-day, 32-hour work week without reducing any pay. It is supposed to benefit everyone, starting with workers, employers, the economy, society, and the environment.

A Transformative Change

According to 4 Day Week Campaign, a reduced week would help workers towards a more improved work-life balance, better wellbeing, and help towards the cost of living. Whilst employers could benefit from higher performance and profit, and greater talent for longer due to having less stressed and happier employees.

There's other potential benefits too with lower unemployment, increased productivity, and a boost in localised tourism, being beneficial for the economy, whilst a reduction in workers commuting could reduce our carbon footprint and make a positive impact on the environment.

The Largest Trial for a Four-day Week

The initiative was launched as a large trial to prove the truth of their concept, from June to December 2022, with more than 70 UK companies and organisations trialling the shorter working week, without any changes in pay.

Over 3300 employees were offered 100% pay for the 80% of work time, in exchange of maintaining 100% of work but within fewer hours. The results are already visible. The two notable companies in the UK that have signed up to the new working idea are Atom Bank and the marketing company Awin, which currently has 450 members of staff in the UK.

Adam Ross, Awin’s chief executive, made a statement to The Guardian that switching to the four-day working week was:

“[O]ne of the most transformative initiatives we’ve seen in the history of the company. Over the course of the last year and a half, we have not only seen a tremendous increase in employee wellness and wellbeing but concurrently, our customer service and relations, as well as talent relations and retention also have benefited” (Adam Ross, Awin)

A Hangover from an Old Economic Age?

Supporters of the initiative say that a five-day working week pattern is just a hangover from an old economic age and that it's no longer necessary. Proponents of the four-day week state that reducing workdays to four per week would change and improve many factors in the UK’s economy, environment, and society. It would also help people working at the companies and supplying work.

They argue that working more hours does not make people more productive, and it is making people more stressed and burnt out. If the four-day week improves employees' mental and physical health, it would also benefit the employers by having more productive and high-quality workers.

Switching the working system from five to four days a week can bring a big change, as it happened almost a century ago when the decision of the 48-hour weekend was made. The USA officially adopted the five-day system in 1932, in a bid to counter the unemployment caused by the Great Depression.

Due to mostly religious reasons, Sunday has been a day off for everyone to rest and to pursue the spiritual matters. Henry Ford, a founder of Ford Motor Company, made Saturday and Sunday off for his staff in 1926 and he also set down a 40-hour working week.

Did you know?

The UK works longer hours than almost any country in Europe

The Result

In conclusion, the idea may have its opponents and proponents. However, most people taking part in the trial consider it a good change. Indeed, when asked in the middle of the trial, 88% of companies said that it was going well, and around 95% of companies said that the employees’ productivity had either increased or stayed on the same level. The push for a four-day work week is certainly strong among the UK public.


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