The world’s biggest four-day workweek trial is kicking off in the UK, with more than 70 companies and 3,300 people aboard for the ride.
For the next six months (beginning June 6), employees of participating companies will work 80% of their usual hours while earning the same pay. Workers will be expected to maintain the same level of productivity, per the trial’s “100:80:100” model. (Employees make 100% of their pay, working 80% of their prior schedule, maintaining 100% of their prior output.)
The massive experiment was co-organized by 4 Day Week UK Campaign and 4 Day Week Global, a nonprofit group led by Andrew Barnes, the founder of a New Zealand insurance company who first cut his own firm’s workweek in 2018, inspired by some airplane reading. The shorter week left his employees feeling more motivated and productive, and Barnes has been advocating for more organizations to make the switch ever since.
The idea has been taking hold, with companies like the US-based crowdfunding site Kickstarter heeding the group’s call. Around the US, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, the number of firms and governments that have found their way to a four-day week keeps growing.
Among employees, the concept is extraordinarily popular: One recent US survey found that 92% of working adults said they would prefer to work four 10-hour days per week (instead of five eight-hour days), another common way to design a four-day schedule.
Data from the UK’s six-month trial should help answer some critical questions about this rising benefit. Like, does it really keep employees happier and healthier without hindering a company’s operations? Or is it a pipe dream that might even worsen the climate crisis? Will workers be less likely to burn out or quit? Will they get more shuteye? Overall will shorter weeks help companies use less energy?
The trial is being co-produced by Autonomy, the UK think tank that also analyzed the results of Iceland’s highly successful, multi-year four-day week trial. Academics from Cambridge University, Oxford University, and Boston College will be tracking the trial’s effects, too.
The table below shows 45 companies which have committed to the experiment. (Not every company in the trial has agreed to go public about its participation.) The companies represent a range of industries, suggesting that the four-day week doesn’t need to be reserved for tech and other office-based employees who already enjoy plum perks, like the ability to work from home. Similar large experiments in Spain and Scotland are set to begin later this year.