Fancy Doing A Four-Day Work Week For No Less Pay? Us, Too

From today, 70 companies are trialling a shorter working week – here's how to get your bosses on board.
Goodbye to five-day work weeks?
sesame via Getty Images
Goodbye to five-day work weeks?

A pioneering scheme to test the viability of a four-day working week starts now – with participating staff working 80% of the week, at 100% pay.

The 4 Day Work Week Campaign launched the project to trial how this way of working would operate and around 70 companies around the UK have opted in to the programme, which will last six months – at least to start with.

Employers taking part in the pilot will guarantee no loss in salary for employees working the fewer days, while the workers will be expected to provide 100% productivity at 80% of the time.

The UK pilot is running in parallel with similar programmes run by 4 Day Week Global in Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the US, while the Spanish government has also launched trials.

Researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College will be tracking everyone’s progress.

On social media, the project has been welcomed by those who have long dreamed of a four-day week themselves, and hope their employers will adopt such ways of working. Others have shared their concerns about the format. Would it mean unbearable workloads for four days a week?

There is lots to get our heads around. Even those who champion a four-day week have questions, which is why we’ve spoken to the experts about it all.

What are the benefits of a four-day week?

Studies have shown that moving to a four-day week boosts productivity and workers’ wellbeing. When Microsoft trialled a four-day week with no loss of pay in their Japan office, productivity went up by 40%.

Two thirds of UK businesses that already operate n a four-day week reported improvements in staff productivity, Henley Business School research reveals.

This model allows parents (and carers), who may otherwise be discouraged out of the workforce, to balance their responsibilities – or feel less singled out if they are already working less than a five day week. It also encourages people to pursue their passions, hobbies, and rest, while having time to do life admin.

How will this pilot scheme work?

Companies opting into the pilot will have access to a package of support including workshops delivered by international four-day week experts and pioneers, mentoring by four-day week business leaders, and networking and knowledge share with other pilot companies.

Researchers will work with each participating organisation to measure the impact on productivity in the business and the wellbeing of its workers, as well as the impact on the environment and other measures such as gender equality.

It’s at each company’s discretion which four days are worked (not all employers will operate on a Monday to Thursday model).

Will four-day employees get paid for the ‘full week’?

The companies in the pilot scheme are being paid their normal salary but organisations outside this project may choose not to pay for a full week.

But research shows employees are less likely to work four-day weeks if it means a reduction in pay. A 2021 study showed that eight in 10 British workers would not favour a reduction in working hours if it meant lower wages, too.

According to research by cross-party think-tank, the Social Market Foundation (SMF), only one in 10 employees are willing to work less and earn less. But when salaries stay the same, workers are on board.

In fact, recent polling showed that 60% of the British public are in favour of introducing a four-day working week.

Home time, goodbye!
MesquitaFMS via Getty Images
Home time, goodbye!

What if you want to switch to four days but your bosses don’t?

It might not be an easy process to achieve this goal if your bosses aren’t on board. But there are some things you can do.

Joe O’Connor, pilot programme manager for 4 Day Week Global, previously told HuffPost UK: “If you look back in history, we know we can’t expect bosses to hand this down in all circumstances. So, that’s why we would encourage workers to join a trade union and use the collective bargaining processes that are available to demand a four-day week workplace.

“We need to see workers demand this as well. But it also has to be a combination of governments working with business leaders, with trade unions to be able to implement this across the economy.”

What about the mental cost of doing five days of work in four days?

For some, reduced hours means can equate to working harder on the days you are logged in, which may have a mental cost.

Wellbeing expert and business psychologist, Dannielle Haig, tells HuffPost UK: “If we squash our new working hours, with little physical human interaction, into a four-day working week, it could be quite easy to get overwhelmed and we know that can have an impact on our mental and physical health.

“So if your daily work load increases, you need to look out for your mental wellbeing to insure burnout, anxiety and overwhelm are key at bay.”

So, how can we look after ourselves better?

“You need to make sure you find time to move your body,” Haig says. “Whether it’s a 20-minute yoga class, walking the dog, walking with friends and family, or a stand-up desk. Make sure you’re not sitting for extended hours ever day.

“Get into daylight. Absorbing vitamin D is fundamental for human wellbeing (both physical and mental) and can improve our mood so get outside and absorb those rays. Also plan your desk near a window if possible.

“Use your three days [off] for yourself. Now you have one extra day to yourself, it’s time to invest in yourself. Maybe start that course you’ve always wanted to try, read those books you never have time for, start cooking for yourself, see your family and friends or maybe travel for a long weekend. Remember to invest in yourself in order to keep burnout at bay!

“And get organised. Beat the overwhelm of more work with organisation that will keep you on track and will provide you with clear indicators of your progress which should keep your self-esteem high and motivated.”

Companies looking to add themselves to the scheme can register on the 4 Day Week Global website