The world’s largest trial of a four-day work week begins today in the UK and will continue for six months.
The pilot is being trailed by 3,300 workers across 70 UK companies, and is based on the 100:80:100 model – 100 per cent of the pay for 80 per cent of the time, in exchange for a commitment to maintain 100 per cent of the productivity.
This comes at a time when the UK labour market is navigating an acute stage of flux.
According to a study by Theta Global Advisors, more than half (57 per cent) of Brits do not want to work in a traditional office environment, five days a week and putting in regular hours.
Furthermore, vacancies in the UK job market are at their highest point ever with redundancies at their lowest since the 90s, meaning there is a critical need for companies to retain staff.
One key way of achieving this is by offering flexible and forward-thinking working arrangements, with the research showing that 40 per cent of Brits believe working traditional hours in an office environment would hinder their performance.
Chris Biggs, partner at consultancy and accounting firm Theta Global Advisors, told City A.M. today: “The decision to trial the four-day week marks the biggest shift we’ve ever seen towards achieving a better work-life balance across the country.
“It will be incredibly interesting to see what the results of the pilot are – but I expect that they’ll be positive and illustrate that there is real sense in this as a concept,” he added.
“As conversation spreads around the scheme, it will also put pressure on employers to go further in their flexible working offerings,” Biggs continued.
“The spotlight is already on this topic with companies now facing real issues in terms of recruiting and retaining staff as a result of there being more job vacancies in the market than ever before,” he stressed.
“The option of having a flexible work schedule has become fundamental for post-pandemic workers.”Chris Biggs
In addition, staggering 41 per cent of respondents stated they are likely to consider leaving their jobs in the next year – clearly illustrating the retention challenges companies are currently facing.
This shared sentiment is forcing companies to trial and adapt new working conditions to suit their employees, with thousands of UK workers preparing to test a four-day working week in the biggest pilot scheme to happen anywhere in the world.
The scheme comes after workers and companies were forced to re-examine their working patterns post-pandemic with a substantial rise in hybrid and flexible working hours.
Big companies reluctant
However, big companies such as Deloitte and Goldman Sachs have been reluctant to fully adopt flexible work environments due to the fear of lowered productivity, until just recently.
This was echoed in the study which found that for 24 per cent of Brits, their employers haven’t explored any flexible working options to help improve their work-life balance.
Goldman Sachs have been in conversations about making changes in this area for almost a year after a leaked report disclosed abusive working conditions among junior bankers, who were working averages as high as 105 hours a week.
They have now implemented their own ‘flexible vacation’ scheme, mandating staff at all levels to take at least 15 days of vacation starting 1 May.
Biggs pointed out that “big companies have only just begun to offer these benefits to their employees, holding off for so long because of the fear of decreased productivity and therefore a loss in profits.”
“The big companies are in a dangerous position where they need to change or could face a mass exodus of talent,” he stressed.
Impact on employers
In addition to Biggs, Kate Martin, partner in the employment team at JMW Solicitors, discussed with City A.M. what the implications of a four day work week for employers may be.
“There are a number of considerations, from an employment law perspective, that come with adopting a four day week.”
For example, Martin singled out updating/amending employment contracts, dealing with holiday entitlement, adjusting pay, monitoring of productivity and mental health/wellbeing, for those who are working the same hours in less days.
“It is unlikely to be a one size fits all when it comes to employers adopting the four day working week.”Kate Martin
Whether this will work for a company “depends largely on each specific business, including the industry/sector that they work in,” she continued.
“It does seem that this is a model that will be more widely adopted in the future, particularly as there are a number of pros both for businesses and employees with having a four day working week.”
“This being said, there are also some cons that come with having a four day week, so employers will need to make an informed decision about whether it would work best for their business,” Martin concluded.