Companies taking part in four-day working week say it ISN’T working

Companies taking part in four-day working week say it ISN’T working: Trial participants say they are struggling with rota chaos and staff confusion and say ‘bumpy’ experiment may not continue

  • More than 3,000 employees across 70 companies began four-day week in June
  • Staff are all being given full pay for 80 per cent of their time during the pilot
  • Chief executives are starting to believe the scheme cannot realistically continue
  • Bosses have complained of difficulties over handovers and issues with hiring

Companies taking part in the world’s largest four-day working week trial are struggling with rota chaos and staff confusion – as bosses say the policy may not survive the trial period.

More than 3,000 employees across 70 companies began working a four-day week in June as part of a trial that could overhaul the working life of Britons.

Staff are being given full pay for 80 per cent of their time — but they have made a commitment to produce 100 per cent of their usual output. 

The programme is being coordinated by campaign group 4 Day Week Global, think tank Autonomy and academics at Oxford, Cambridge and Boston College in the US.

There are a range of businesses and charities 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.

But some chief executives are starting to believe the scheme cannot realistically continue beyond the pilot’s termination date in December.

Samantha Losey, boss of communications firm Unity, told The Telegraph: ‘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.

Samantha Losey, boss of communications firm Unity, says she is doubtful she will continue the scheme beyond the end of the pilot

Samantha Losey, boss of communications firm Unity, says she is doubtful she will continue the scheme beyond the end of the pilot

Trio Media boss Claire Daniels (pictured) has said that the four-day week is complicating the process of hiring

Trio Media boss Claire Daniels (pictured) has said that the four-day week is complicating the process of hiring

Trio is among 70 companies taking part in the pilot

Trio is among 70 companies taking part in the pilot

‘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.’

She also complained it has created difficulties on handover days due to staff having different days off.

And Trio Media boss Claire Daniels said the four-day week is complicating hiring and was unable to confirm if her company will continue the scheme beyond the end of the year.

She said: ‘The only challenge is in recruitment currently as we cannot guarantee that we will continue the four-day week pilot scheme.’

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.

Kirsty Wainwright, 34, the general manager at Norfolk fish and chip shop Platten's has previously said that long hours in the hospitality industry push up staff shortages

Platten's fish and chip shop in Wells-next-the-Sea, North Norfolk, is also taking part in the trial

Kirsty Wainwright, 34, the general manager at Norfolk fish and chip shop Platten’s, has previously said that long hours in the hospitality industry push up staff shortages

Pros and cons of a four-day week 

Pros:

  • Fewer distractions at work
  • Longer hours does not mean more output
  • Increased mental wellbeing and physical health
  • Parents with children find themselves less stressed out
  • 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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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.

Christine MacKay, boss of animation studio Salamandra, said her firm has been unable to start the pilot due to the number of large projects it is currently working on.

She said: ‘I’ve had mixed responses [from staff] – some are very excited and some are not so keen as everyone works at different speeds.

‘It’s quite a stressful prospect if you naturally work at a slower speed. The minute the company or customers are in jeopardy it will stop.’

Despite the concerns, though, some chief executives said staff appear happier and more motivated.

Matt Bolton, co-founder of advertising agency Mox London, said it was ‘the best business decision’ he has ever made.

And Joe O’Connor, the person running the campaign, said the feedback has been ‘overwhelmingly positive’. 

Major companies that have tried out a four-day week but are not part of the trial include Unilever, Panasonic and Atom Bank —which was the biggest employer to make the change in November last year.

During the pandemic, it was believed that introducing a four-day working week would boost high street sales by an estimated £58billion, according to Affise.

This is because three-day weekends would give shoppers 20 per cent more time to buy, and see an expected spending increase related to hobbies, gardening and DIY.

The UK companies taking part in four-day week scheme from tech firms, recruitment consultancies to charities: 

5 Squirrels – Healthcare

Adzooma – Tech 

AKA Case Management – Domiciliary Care 

Allcap Limited – Industrial & construction supplies 

Amplitude – Creative Marketing Agency

Bedrock Learning – EdTech (Primary and Secondary Education) 

Bookishly – Gift 

Boom Studios – Creative & Cultural 

Charity Bank – Financial Services (Banking) 

Comcen – IT 

Eurowagens – Automotive 

Everledger – Technology

Evolution Money Limited – Financial Services 

Future Talent Learning – Online Education 

Girling Jones – Recruitment

Happy – Learning 

Helping Hands – Housing/Health and Social Care 

Hutch – Games 

IE Brand – Digital & Branding 

Literal Humans – Marketing / Advertising 

Loud Mouth Media – Digital Marketing

Merthyr Valley Homes Limited – Housing 

MOX – Advertising 

NeatClean – Consumer Goods 

Our Community – Technology & Training 

Outcomes Based Healthcare – Healthcare

Outcomes First Group – Care and Education services

Platten’s Fish and Chips – Hospitality

Pressure Drop Brewing – Brewing / manufacturing 

Rivelin Robotics – Software / Manufacturing

Royal Society of Biology – Charity 

Salamandra.uk – Animation 

Scotland’s International Development Alliance – Charity 

Secure Digital Exchange Ltd – IT 

Sensat – Software Start Up 

Sounds Like These – Media

Stellar Asset Management – Financial Services 

Stemettes – Charity

The Story Mob – Public Relations / Comms

Timberlake Consultants Ltd / TLKE Ltd – Software Training Consultancy

Trio Media – Digital Marketing 

Tyler Grange – Environmental Consulting 

Unity – Public Relations / Comms

Waterwise – Environmental campaigning organisation (not4profit)

We Are Purposeful – Not for profit 

Yo Telecom – Telecommunications Southampton 

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