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For the next six months, thousands of people across the UK will work 32 hours a week in the largest four-day workweek pilot the world has ever seen.
The experiment includes more than 3,300 people from 70 companies in industries ranging from healthcare to local fish and chip shops. It is launched by 4 Day Week Global, 4 Day Week Campaign, the British think tank Autonomy and researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College.
The idea is quite simple. Workers earn as much money as they would for a 40-hour work week, but they work only 80% of the time. In exchange for fewer hours, workers commit to maintaining the productivity they would in a five-day work week.
The calls for a 32-hour work week have increased, especially as many people around the world are facing burnout from the pandemic.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are recognizing that the new frontier of competition is quality of life, and that reduced hours, production-focused work are the tools to give them a competitive edge,” said Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global, said in a statement.
“The consequence of the ‘big layoff’ is now showing that workers from a variety of industries can produce better results while working shorter and smarter,” he said.
The results of a 32-hour work week are something Will Stronge, research director at Autonomy, focuses on. Strong, who is also a co-author of Overtime: why we need a shorter working week, told NPR Lifestyle podcast last year that the five-day work week is in some ways outdated and leads to something he calls the creep of overtime in our personal lives.
“Our work culture has changed to be one where it’s much more about going beyond – working beyond your hours either for better career opportunities or simply because it’s required of you by your boss,” he said. “Now, during the pandemic, you’re in the living room with your laptop. So it’s hard to turn off this insect that has infiltrated our working lives.”
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Stronge has claimed that a shorter working week would be better for people’s mental health and could even increase productivity.
“For many organizations, what you lose in working hours, you get in greater productivity at work,” he said. “We can not concentrate all the time, especially not if you are overworked and burnt out. And then reducing the work week has paid off in terms of productivity and employee well-being, which means they come rested at work. They come to work like. their job a little more and want to get the job done so they can have a great weekend and so on. ”
Researchers will measure any changes in productivity
When the big British pilot starts, productivity is an area researchers will focus on.
“We will analyze how employees respond to having an extra day off, in terms of stress and burnout, job and life satisfaction, health, sleep, energy use, travel and many other aspects of life,” said Juliet Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College. , said in a statement.
Although it will take at least six months before final results from the British pilot are revealed, a similar experiment from Microsoft Japan in 2019 resulted in a 40% increase in productivity. Earlier, a company in New Zealand that tested four-day weeks announced a 20% increase in employee productivity in 2018.
Trials in Iceland with around 2,500 workers between 2015 and 2019 found that productivity remained the same or improved in most cases.
And when it comes to the extra weekend people pick up, Stronge said that many say they would use the extra day off to do personal tasks or spend more time with friends and family.
“It makes a big difference,” Stronge said. “And so I think it should – it would be a bit of a game changer.”