Thousands of workers begin world’s largest four-day workweek trial

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Thousands of UK workers will start a four-day work week without pay cuts from Monday in the biggest attempt of its kind.

The pilot, which will last six months, will involve 3,300 employees at 70 companies ranging from a financial services provider to a fish-and-chip restaurant.

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During the program, workers will receive 100 percent of their wages if they work just 80 percent of their usual week in exchange for a promise to maintain their productivity at 100 percent.

The program is being run by the non-profit organization 4 Day Week Global, Autonomy, a think tank, and the 4 Day Week UK Campaign in partnership with researchers from Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College.

Sienna O’Rourke, brand manager at Pressure Drop Brewing, an independent brewery in London, told CNN Business that the company’s number one goal is to improve the mental health and well-being of its employees.

“The pandemic (has) made us think a lot about work and how people organize their lives,” she said.

“We do this to improve the lives of our employees and to be part of an ongoing change in the world.”

Given that the company makes and ships products, workers have less flexibility over when and where to work, O’Rourke said. But any difficulties in coping with vacation and sickness would be tackled as a team.

So far, Iceland had run the largest pilot of a shorter working week between 2015 and 2019, involving 2,500 public sector workers in two large trials.

These studies found no commensurate drop in productivity among participants and a dramatic increase in employee well-being.

Calls for a shorter working week have gained momentum in several countries in recent years. As millions of employees have transitioned to working remotely during the pandemic — eliminating the hassle of commuting time and costs — calls for more flexibility have only gotten louder.

Government-backed trials are due to take place in Spain and Scotland later this year, the 4-day-week campaign said in a press release.

Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global, said workers had shown they could work “shorter and smarter”.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are realizing that the new frontier of competition is quality of life and that working for performance with reduced hours is the means to give them a competitive advantage,” he said in the statement.

Researchers will measure the impact the new work pattern will have on productivity levels, gender equality, the environment and workers’ well-being.

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