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Firms participate in four-day week trial

Around 30 more employers are set to participate in a four-day week trial where researchers will measure the impact it has on productivity and wellbeing.

The six-month trial will see employees at companies including Atom Bank and Canon Medical Research Europe paid a full wage despite working one day less a week.

The pilot is being co-ordinated by not-for-profit 4 Day Week Global, think-tank Autonomy, the 4 Day Week UK Campaign, and researchers at Cambridge University, Boston College and Oxford University.

Researchers will examine the effect the shorter working week has on employee productivity, wellbeing and gender equality.

According to 4 Day Week Global, 63% of organisations find it easier to attract and retain staff with a four day work week, and 78% of employees with a four day week are happier and less stressed.

Joe O’Connor, pilot programme manager for 4 Day Week Global, said: “More and more businesses are moving to productivity-focused strategies to enable them to reduce worker hours without reducing pay.

“We are excited by the growing momentum and interest in our pilot programme and in the four-day week more broadly.

“The four-day week challenges the current model of work and helps companies move away from simply measuring how long people are ‘at work’, to a sharper focus on the output being produced. 2022 will be the year that heralds in this bold new future of work.”

The UK-arm of Canon Medical Research Europe is participating in the trial. President Ken Sutherland said: “As a responsive employer we are always looking at how we can adapt our working practices to ensure that employees find their time with us is meaningful, fulfilling and productive. For this reason, we’re keen to pilot a four-day week to see if it can work for us.”

Numerous organisations have trialled four-day weeks outside of this pilot. In November Atom Bank said it would move permanently to a four-day week, while Panasonic has said it would trial optional four-day weeks.

Social care provider Fairway Homecare launched a four-day week for its head office staff without any reduction to their salaries. It claimed that 100% of affected staff felt happier in general and 90% felt more productive at work.

The future

Fairway Homecare operations director Alex O’Neill said: “We hoped that by introducing a four-day week it would inspire our staff to continue to work hard and achieve incredible results, whilst also allowing them to achieve a more realistic work/life balance.

“Being rewarded to be successful whilst you are working, and to enjoy your life when you are not, is at the centre of our thought process. We want people to be efficient with their time, be ambitious and hungry to achieve and know that if they really work hard when in the office or on duty, the benefits of the three-day weekend will become priceless.

“Following discussions with our staff, we made it clear that there would be no reduction in pay and overall, they will benefit from something like six weeks less work per person per year, which is not to be ignored and something our staff are very excited about.”

Ben Gateley, CEO at HR advice service CharlieHR, said employees are more engaged and productive when they are given more autonomy over how they work and get more rest.

“Lockdown and universal home working has brought life and work closer together and has meant that creating a more flexible, liveable working life is the future,” he said.

“Separation from work is important but ultimately, we are the same person in work and out of work, and for too long, the idea that our professional lives can benefit by being more aligned with our identities as whole people has been completely missed.”

Research by HR software company Factorial last year identified the four-day week as the most desirable employee benefit.

Personnel Today January 2022

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