Ask any working parent and they’ll probably have a story to offer about how challenging finding the elusive work/life balance has been for them. For decades now, there’s been a blur between work hours and home hours with many parents no longer able to “leave work at the office” with an expectation of being reachable and on even when out of the office.
It’s been clear for many employees that long hours stuck in the office is not working — and also that the connection between working long hours and productivity at work has remained flat — but it’s taken companies longer to catch on. Slowly though, a tide has shifted, and as of June 1, 60 companies in the UK trialing the world’s biggest 4-day workweek. Here’s what you need to know.
According to The Guardian, more than 3,000 workers across 60 companies in the UK are set to begin a 4-day work week trial, in what is being called the largest pilot program on work-life balance to take place ever.
“Employees from a wide range of businesses and charities are expected to take part in the scheme, which will run initially from June to December,” The Guardian reports. This includes “the Royal Society of Biology, the London-based brewing company Pressure Drop, a Manchester-based medical devices firm, and a fish and chip shop in Norfolk.”
The pilot is being run by Oxford University and Cambridge University, alongside Boston College in the United States. It’s also in partnership with 4 Day Week Global, a campaign group advocating for better work/life balance, plus the 4 Day Week UK Campaign, and the Autonomy thinktank.
During the trial, the companies are hoping to examine how the new balance of hours may impact a large range of companies across the economy. The research collected will help determine relevant productivity and worker wellbeing metrics as the shift to a shorter workweek begins.
“Increasingly, managers and executives are embracing a new model of work which focuses on quality of outputs, not quantity of hours,” Joe O’Connor, the chief executive of 4 Day Week Global said. “Workers have emerged from the pandemic with different expectations around what constitutes a healthy life-work balance.”
The trial will run for six months between June 2022 and November 2022 and a key aspect of the trial is that the reduced work hours does not result in any pay loss for employees— similar to how other 4-day workweek trials have run. Ideally, as with other trials have done, this trial will show that people can work fewer hours than they used to, earn the same amount of money, and stay just as productive as they were when working 40-hour workweeks.
The UK study will follow other similar studies which took place in Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States—all of which were successful in showing that reduced hours don’t reduce productivity and in turn increases employee happiness and retention.