Almost half of firms who signed up to four-day week say they will stick to pattern when scheme ends

Almost half of firms who signed up to four-day a week trial say they will stick to same working pattern when scheme ends

  • More than 3,300 employees across 70 companies began four-day week in June 
  • Staff are all being given full pay for 80% of their time during the pilot 
  • Just half said they will stick to the same working pattern when scheme ends 
  • Bosses have warned that the scheme may not be able to realistically continue 

Just half of the British businesses trying out a four-day week will stick to the same working pattern when the scheme ends.

More than 3,300 employees across 70 companies and charities took part in the radical six-month experiment in June, with staff given full pay for 80% of their time while making a commitment to produce 100% of their usual output in a trial that could overhaul the working life of Britons.

However, only around half of those taking part (41) responded to a survey canvassing opinion at the halfway point.

Though nearly nine in ten of the respondents said that they would keep the scheme in place beyond the trial period – which at 36 amounts to around half of all participants – only 15% surveyed claimed that productivity had surged dramatically – while the remainder recorded either no change or only a ‘slight improvement’ in output.

Companies previously said they had struggled with rota chaos and staff confusion after rolling out the four-day week, with bosses admitting that they doubted the policy could survive the trial period.

More than 3,300 employees across 70 companies and charities took part in the radical six-month trial in June, with staff given full pay for 80% of their time while making a commitment to produce 100% of their usual output (stock photo used)

More than 3,300 employees across 70 companies and charities took part in the radical six-month trial in June, with staff given full pay for 80% of their time while making a commitment to produce 100% of their usual output (stock photo used)

Samantha Losey, boss of communications firm Unity, told The Telegraph last month: ‘It’s more likely that we won’t carry on now. One of the things that has struck me is whether or not we are a mature enough business to be able to handle the four-day week. 

‘The rest of the world not doing four-day weeks makes it challenging. We agreed we’d go all the way through the pilot, but I’m questioning whether this is the right thing for us long-term. It’s been bumpy for sure.’

A range of businesses and charities are taking part, including the Royal Society of Biology, hipster London brewery Pressure Drop, Southampton computer game developer Yo Telecom, a Manchester medical devices firm, and a fish and chip shop in Norfolk.

Weighing up a four-day week? Here are the pros and cons 

Pros

Fewer distractions at work

Longer hours does not necessarily mean more output

Increased mental wellbeing and physical health

Parents with children find themselves less stressed out

Potentially lowered carbon footprint 

Cons

Not all industries can participate

It might widen existing inequalities

The cost risk for employers is expensive

Workers may put in the same hours anyways

Difficult team management 

Source: Adecco Group

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The trial is being run by not-for-profit 4 Day Week Global in partnership with left-wing thinktank Autonomy, researchers at Boston College and Oxford and Cambridge universities, and lobby group 4 Day Week Campaign, which is pushing for a 32-hour working week with no pay reduction. 

The firms and not-for-profits are being charged up to £10,000 to take part, MailOnline has learned. 

Of those who did respond to the survey, nearly half (46%) said productivity had not increased, while about a third (34%) reported only a ‘slight’ improvement and just 15% a ‘significant’ one’.

And on a scale of one to five indicating how smooth the shift had been, with a grade of one representing ‘extremely smooth’, more than a fifth (22%) did not rate the move to a shorter week one or two.

Even among those who now believe the four-day week worked for them, the transition was not been without its difficulties. 

Nicci Russell, managing director of water efficiency group Waterwise, told The Times: ‘It wasn’t a walk in the park at the start, but no major change ever is. 

‘Some weeks are easier than others and things like annual leave can make it harder to fit everything in, but we’re much more settled with it now.’ 

The CEO of 4 Day Week Global, Joe O’Connor, admitted: ‘We are learning that for many it is a fairly smooth transition and for some there are some understandable hurdles – especially among those which have comparatively fixed or inflexible practices, systems, or cultures which date back well into the last century.

‘While for most organisations the pilot prompts many pleasing discoveries and outcomes – a lot of businesses have more flexibility and nimbleness among their people and teams that leaders often know at the outset – there is friction for others, and this can be based on a variety of factors, many of which can be addressed or substantially improved in the pilot itself’.

Critics argue the concept would be impossible in customer facing jobs, or 24/7 operations including where overtime payments would present an extra cost to employers or the taxpayer. 

A trial of the four-day working week in France previously found workers were putting in the same amount of hours even with a day fewer and companies were having to pay them for their extra time. 

Claire Daniels, CEO at Trio Media

Nicci Russell, managing director of water efficiency group Waterwise

Claire Daniels, CEO at Trio Media (left), Nicci Russell, managing director of water efficiency group Waterwise (right)

Samantha Losey, boss of communications firm Unity. She warned last month that she would probably not extend the trial beyond the six-month period

Samantha Losey, boss of communications firm Unity. She warned last month that she would probably not extend the trial beyond the six-month period

Some economists have also said that working fewer hours would decrease the standard of living, while the leader of one of Spain’s main business associations has previously described it as ‘madness’.

It comes as the pandemic has seen more employees working from home and adopting more flexible hours instead of the usual nine-to-five, five-day working week.

By contrast, Sharon Platts of Outcomes First Group said: ‘The four-day week [pilot] has been transformational for us so far. 

‘We’ve been delighted to see productivity and output increase and have also been able to make it work in our education and care services, which we thought would be far more challenging. 

‘While it’s still early days, our confidence in continuing beyond the trial is growing and the impact on colleague wellbeing has been palpable.’ 

And Claire Daniels, CEO at Trio Media, said that revenue at her business – that had £450,000 sales last year and is budgeting for £650,000 this year – had increased during the trial.

She added: ‘The four-day week trial so far has been extremely successful for us. Productivity has remained high, with an increase in wellness for the team, along with our business performing 44% better financially.’

Kyle Lewis, co-director of Autonomy, insisted that the trial would provide information that ‘can support other organisations and sectors considering switching to a four-day week in the future’. 

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