Work-Life Balance

UK 4-Day Work Week: 100 Companies Make Permanent Shift

The shift to the 4 day work week is part of a global trend reorienting our relationship to work, and to the rest of our lives.

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One hundred companies across the UK have permanently committed to adopting a four-day work week with no pay cut for employees. The companies’ switch to the shorter week has been spearheaded by the 4 Day Week Campaign, a UK-based non-profit working to change the work landscape by helping implement the four-day work week as a new normal.

Employing around 2,600 people, these 100 workplaces are the latest in a surge of companies either adopting or trialing a truncated work week, a practice that is sweeping the globe after successful trials worldwide.

Proponents of the four-day week — and research on the trials — suggest the shorter week boosts employee morale, contributes to better work/life balance, and results in happier, more satisfied workers with no decrease in productivity or output. And in some cases, reports show that workplace productivity actually increased after the adoption of a shortened week.

The two largest companies involved in the permanent shift are Atom Bank and marketing company Awin. “Over the course of the last year and a half, we have not only seen a tremendous increase in employee wellness and wellbeing but concurrently, our customer service and relations, as well as talent relations and retention, also have benefited,” said Adam Ross, Awin’s CEO, calling it “one of the most transformative initiatives we’ve seen in the history of the company.”

The 4 Day Week Campaign is partnering with 4 Day Week Global to run the largest shortened workweek trial in the UK, encompassing 70 companies with almost 3,300 employees. Midpoint results from that trial are overwhelmingly positive, with 86% of respondents saying a shortened work week is working well for their businesses.

“We want to see a four-day week with no loss of pay become the normal way of working in this country by the end of the decade, so we are aiming to sign up many more companies over the next few years,” Joe Ryle, the director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, told The Guardian. “With many businesses struggling to afford 10% inflation pay rises, we’re starting to see increasing evidence that a four-day week with no loss of pay is being offered as an alternative solution.”

The 100 UK companies join companies from as far afield as New Zealand and governments like Iceland in switching to a shortened week. Earlier this month, Unilever announced that its facilities in New Zealand would continue the four-day week after a successful 18-month trial, and its Australia-based facilities would be joining the movement as well.

The current five-day workweek was introduced in the U.S. in the 20th century as a way to combat exploitative labor practices begun during the Industrial Revolution, but advocates say it's no longer sustainable. Trials of a four-day workweek show that the switch successfully addressed the problems of employee burnout and poor retention that have resulted from the five-day week in a modern work landscape.

As the world of work has changed over the last half century — both parents in the workforce, remote work, longer hours, constant connectedness — the need for a shortened week has become readily apparent as Millennials and Gen Z workers embrace what’s being called The Great Resignation. For companies that adopted the four-day week, employee retention grew, suggesting that it’s just one tool companies can utilize in order to increase employee satisfaction and burnout and stop the churn of resignations.