World’s Largest Four-Day Work Week Experiment Begins

World’s Largest Four-Day Work Week Experiment Begins
Previous research on the shortened work week have seen increases in productivity and employee happiness. (Photo: Christopher Furlong, Getty Images)

The four-day work week has officials converged on the United Kingdom. It’s part of a six month long pilot program, the largest of its kind. This means thousands of workers in the UK will be able to savour an extra day off with no reduction in pay.

Over 3,300 employees from 70 different companies are participating in the UK trial of the four-day work week. This is according to a press release from 4 Day Week Global, the nonprofit that’s organising the research around this most recent effort to examine cutting one day of work. 4 Day Week Global says this is the biggest pilot program of its kind, where as long as workers maintain 100% of their productivity, they will also maintain 100% of their salary while working 80% of the traditional work week. Companies involved range from fish and chips shops, to PR firms, to tech companies. 4 Day Week Global is also in partnership with Autonomy, a labour think tank, as well as researchers from Cambridge University, Boston College, and Oxford University.

“The UK is at the crest of a wave of global momentum behind the four-day week,” said Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global, in a press release. “As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are recognising that the new frontier for competition is quality of life, and that reduced-hour, output-focused working is the vehicle to give them a competitive edge.”

Perpetual Guardian, 4 Day Week Global founder Andrew Barnes’ estate planning company, ran a similar pilot program in New Zealand for eight weeks in 2018. The program involved 240 Perpetual Guardian employees and was a collaboration with researchers from the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology, as described in a white paper. According to the Guardian, the researchers involved in this pilot collected qualitative and quantitative data before, during, and after the eight week trial period, and they found that 78% of employees felt better about their work-life balance, as well as increases in productivity and decreases in stress. The UK’s pilot program will be able to broaden the scope of these results, and 4 Day Week Global has also begun the intake process of a pilot program for the U.S. and Canada.

The four-day work week is an alluring reconfiguration of the traditional labour force, and it’s gaining traction not only across the world, but in the U.S. as well. Microsoft experimented with the four day-week at its Japan offices in 2019, and saw higher sales per employee and increases in employee happiness. In 2021, California Representative Mark Takano introduced the idea as potential legislation in the U.S., citing the pandemic’s effect on unemployment as a factor.