1 Along with others in the UK, companies including Scotland’s International Development Alliance and Loud Mouth Media, who have offices in Belfast and Glasgow, have signed up to a new six-month trial that’s been organised by 4 Day Week Global in partnership with think tank Autonomy, the 4 Day Week UK Campaign, and researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College. It started on Monday June 6 and is running until December 2022.2 There have been similar pilots organised by the not-for-profit community that is 4 Day Week Global in Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Israel.3 This campaign allows over 3300 workers to experience a four day week, based on the 100:80:100 model, which means you earn 100 per cent of the pay for 80 per cent of the time. They suggest that on this new schedule, workers can be just, if not more, as productive, but also have more free time to benefit their mental and physical health. As 4 Day Week UK says on their website; “The 9-5, five day working week is no longer fit for purpose”.
4 Having a three-day weekend will undoubtedly improve employees' happiness levels and motivation long term. Jeremy Snape, founder of performance consultancy Sporting Edge (www.sportingedge.com), believes this would give us more time for other beneficial things – perhaps time “to take on exercise classes, outdoor activities, long weekend breaks, the chance to reconnect with family and friends, work on community projects, or maybe help elderly relatives”. The campaign thinks the longer breaks will also help to boost tourism within the UK, as people will take more staycations.
5 Some have already adopted a four-day week outside of this campaign and they don’t seem to have any complaints yet. Earlier this year, Edinburgh’s sour beer maker Vault City Brewery shifted to a four day week, and its revenues for 2022 are up 168 per cent year on year, with net profits up 38 per cent. “The increase in productivity and profit since the shift to a four-day week has been marked, and we hope this and the continuing rise in popularity of sour beer will keep us on this upward trajectory – it’s an exciting time!” says co-founder Steven Smith-Hay.6 Are there any downsides? Some think that employees might struggle to cram workloads into fewer hours and that flexi time might be better. Paula Allen, global leader and senior vice-president of research and total wellbeing at LifeWorks (www.lifeworks.com), agrees that “the pandemic has forced us to look again at employee wellbeing” – however, she’s not convinced a four-day week is necessarily the answer. “Some say it addresses the wrong issues,” says Allen. “When we surveyed 2,000 UK workers in our LifeWorks Mental Health Index this month about their wellbeing, Brits actually prioritised having flexible working schedules and freedom in where they work, rather than simply reduced hours. Reducing the working week is not an end in itself. Employers must recognise the landscape has shifted, and not lose sight of less radical proposals in the meantime.”