Science | June 7, 2022 1:07 pm

A Gigantic Four-Day Work Week Trial Just Started in the UK

In the largest experiment of its kind, several thousand workers will attempt to maintain the same productivity during a shortened week

Blue pins on four days in a week on a calendar. Friday, Saturday and Sunday crossed out. Four day work week concept.
The world's largest four-day work week experiment is starting in the U.K. this week.
sinseeho / iStock / Getty

For a few thousand workers in the U.K., the four-day work week just became reality.

Yes, we realize that many people here and abroad have started secretly treating Friday as part of their weekend. But a formal four-day work week trial, led by nonprofit 4 Day Week Global, that will last six months and include 3,300 employees from 70 companies has just begun across the pond. According to ScienceAlert, it appears to be the largest study of its kind ever conducted.

These companies and employees will be following the 100-80-100 model, meaning that workers will receive 100% of the pay for 80% of the time, in exchange for a commitment to maintain at least 100% productivity. The participating companies run the gamut from banking to hospitality.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are recognizing that the new frontier for competition is quality of life, and that reduced-hour, output-focused working is the vehicle to give them a competitive edge,” says Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global. “The impact of the ‘great resignation’ is now proving that workers from a diverse range of industries can produce better outcomes while working shorter and smarter.”

Similar pilot programs are set to start later this year in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the U.S. (some legislation for a four-day work week had been previously proposed in California). A similar four-year trial in Iceland, held from 2015-2019, showcased some promising results, and productivity apparently skyrocketed during a four-day-week experiment by Microsoft Japan. “Many workers expressed that after starting to work fewer hours they felt better, more energized, and less stressed, resulting in them having more energy for other activities, such as exercise, friends, and hobbies,” as some researchers previously noted.

The benefits, besides worker morale? “We anticipate that the shorter working week will also help us attract a more diverse workforce and encourage people who would previously have been unable to commit to the standard five-day working week to join us,” says Ed Siegel, CEO of Charity Bank, one of the participants.

The biggest drawback? Besides some logistical issues and the idea that overworked employees may not enjoy the idea of doing the same amount of work in less time, the idea has so far gained little traction among companies, with only 1,700 jobs for every one million posted on Indeed.com (as of January 2022) offering a four-day week.