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Thousands of British Workers Begin Trial of 4-Day Workweek

June 13 - Posted at 9:00 AM Tagged: , ,

More than 3,300 workers at 70 British companies, ranging from small consultancies to large financial firms, have started working a four-day week with no loss of pay in what organizers of the program call the world’s biggest trial of a shorter workweek.

The pilot program, which launched on June 6 and will run for six months, is organized by the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global, with offices in London and New York City, in partnership with the London-based thinktank Autonomy, the UK’s 4 Day Week Campaign, and researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College.

The researchers will analyze how employees respond to having an extra day off, studying areas such as stress and burnout, job and life satisfaction, health, sleep, energy use and travel.

Joe O’Connor, chief executive of 4 Day Week Global, said the pilot programs puts the UK at the forefront of the four-day week movement. “As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are recognizing that the new frontier for competition is quality of life, and that reduced-hour, output-focused working is the vehicle to give them a competitive edge,” he told The Guardian.

On June 6, O’Connor tweeted, “This is a historic day, as the lives of over 3,000 workers and their families are transformed by the pioneering, forward-thinking approach of their firms to embrace a new approach to how we organize work.”

Shorter Workweek Options

Participating employers in the pilot program agreed to adjust working hours to accord with one of the following options:

  • “Gold” participants adopt a permanent 32 hour (or less) four-day week, with a reduction of hours and no loss of pay. There is also an option to spread the 32 hours over five days.
  • “Silver” participants adopt a permanent 35 hour (or less) four-day week, with a reduction of hours and no loss of pay.

4 Day Week Global said it advocates for a “100-80-100” model: 100 percent of pay for workers, who put in 80 percent of their traditional working time, in exchange for maintaining 100 percent of their productivity, according to the group’s website.

Weighing Pros and Cons

The British pilot program follows several other shorter workweek trials in different countries. “Trials by big companies such as Microsoft in Japan and Buffer in the U.S. have shown that a four-day week boosts productivity,” the UK’s 4 Day Week Campaign posted on its website.

“For the next 6 months more than 3,000 UK workers will enjoy the equivalent of a standard bank holiday every single week,” the group tweeted. “And the best thing about it? This could be the future of work for everyone.”

But maybe not. An article in the Harvard Business Review recently pointed out that a study of New Zealand’s move to the four-day workweek found that “not only was work intensified following the change, but so too were managerial pressures around performance measurement, monitoring and productivity,” according to the article’s authors, researchers Emma Russell at the University of Sussex, Caroline Murphy at the University of Limerick and Esme Terry at Leeds University.

“The New Zealand four-day workweek trial rings some alarm bells in that reductions in working days did not necessarily create well-being benefits as workers struggled to meet the demands of their job roles,” the researchers noted. “It is perhaps telling that much of the publicity around the success of Microsoft Japan’s four-day workweek trial rested on how productivity increased substantially during the study period. Employers may need to be careful about promoting outputs over well-being if they want to be seen as investing in their workforce’s work-life balance.”

Still, there is ample evidence that many employees and job candidates would favor the move to a four-day workweek.

Employees Want Flexibility

Ladders, a San Francisco based recruitment firm for executives and professionals, recently surveyed more than 400 job candidates who are active on its search service platform and found that 79 percent said they have already left or would leave a five-day workweek job for a four-day workweek job, provided there is no drop in salary.

“While this strongly indicates an edge in hiring for employers that offer four-day workweeks, nothing is set in stone,” said Ladders CEO Dave Fisch.

The decision to try a shorter workweek should be made after “a careful weighing of the pros and cons for their businesses,” he advised.

However, employers that don’t pursue a shorter workweek may want to “consider other flexible options, or they may find themselves struggling to keep and replace talented people going forward,” Fisch said.

Flexible Schedules as an Alternative

Alicia Garcia, chief culture officer at MasterControl, a global technical support company based in Salt Lake City, favors greater flexibility around scheduled hours as an alternative to shorter workweeks.

“The biggest issue with a four-day workweek is that it is still rigid,” she said. Whether it is a four- or five-day workweek, “the exact days and times employees are required to work are fixed.”

When approached by employees, she said, “the most common request is for ‘flexibility.’ They ask if they can pick up children from school every day and log back in, take an afternoon exercise class, or take a break when the day is feeling stressful. Rarely does the number of hours an employee works surface in these discussions.”

She added, “doctor appointments, dentist visits and school performances don’t always fall on the same day of the week.”

Garcia advised companies to trust employees to schedule flexibility into their workweek. “Supervisors and managers know if work is getting done and getting done well. They should be empowered to allow flexibility in their teams,” she said. “By developing a culture where managers are trusted to make the best decisions and, in turn, trust their teams to ensure work is covered, companies can develop future senior leaders and recruit the best talent in the market.”

The 4-Day Workweek: Helpful Innovation Or Expensive Risk?

March 09 - Posted at 9:00 AM Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

In 2016, Millennials surpassed Generation X as the largest generation in the American workforce. Given their reputation as the driving force behind workplace change – from the birth of the #MeToo movement to the expansion of technology – it isn’t surprising to learn that there is gathering momentum for another significant change spurred by this generation of workers: the implementation of a four-day workweek.

Just as the identity of the workforce has changed, so has the type of work that Americans are performing. Technology has made it easier for employees to seek non-conventional employment. Tools like video conferencing, productivity software, and artificial intelligence are changing how we work and what we do while we are at work.

Put simply, technology has made it possible to take office work out of the office. According to a recent survey, telecommuting is offered by over 40% of organizations and some form of flexible scheduling is offered by 57%. With the face and tools of the workplace evolving, employers are being challenged to reevaluate other traditional elements of work.

One of these being the length of the workweek. 

Potential Benefits Of A 4-Day Workweek

The four-day workweek typically exists in two variations, either the 4-10 workweek, which redistributes the 40-hour workweek over four days, or the 4-8 workweek, which simply cuts a day and makes the workweek 32 hours. Those who have implemented one of these types of schedules primarily cite one of these four reasons to support their decision:


The four-day workweek may help to address one of the major problems that modern employers face: employee turnover. A recent Gallup Report estimated that Millennial turnover costs the U.S. economy $30.5 billion annually. According to that same report, Millennials rank work-life-balance high on their list of priorities when considering employment options. Because of this, an alternate schedule which allows one additional non-work day a week may be attractive to your workers.

Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand-based financial services company, reinvigorated the four-day workweek debate when its CEO announced that the company was moving to a four-day, 30-hour workweek. Guardian made the decision to permanently alter employees’ schedules after test results demonstrated that employees were performing the same amount of work in the shortened week and reported significant improvements in work-life-balance.

Similarly, last year in Colorado, Adams County became the first school district in a major metropolitan area to institute a four-day workweek. The change was made to attract and retain teachers to the school district. And it worked. The district, which compensates teachers at the lowest rate of any district in the Denver area, experienced increased applicants and lower staff turnover during the pilot year of the program.


Some case studies suggest that instituting a four-day workweek can boost employee productivity. In Japan, Microsoft reported that implementing a four-day workweek led to a 40% boost in productivity compared to the previous year. Notably, Microsoft Japan’s model included other modifications to the workplace, including limiting meetings to 30 minutes and encouraging online discussions instead of face-to-face encounters with coworkers.

Operational Costs

One positive byproduct of the four-day workweek is that employers save on operational costs. One less day of work is one less day the lights are on at the office. Microsoft Japan saw a 23% reduction in electricity consumption and a 59% reduction in paper printing after implementing a four-day workweek.

Climate Solution

Finally, Andrew Barnes, the CEO of Perpetual Guardian, advocates for the four-day workweek as a step employers can take to combat climate change. According to the University of California the two largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. are transportation (29%) and electricity production (28%). Theoretically, both emissions are reduced when employers cut the workweek by a day.

The 4-Day Workweek Is A Gamble – And Maybe An Expensive One

For all the potential benefits of the four-day workweek, there are associated costs that must be taken into account before implementation.

Unpredictable Outcomes

In 2011, the Utah state legislature scrapped the four-day workweek for all non-emergency state workers after a three-year test run. The decision was made to return employees to a five-day workweek after reports concluded that the expected benefits of the program, including reduced operational costs and increased employee productivity, never materialized.

Conflicting Or Rigid Compensation Laws

States often have rigid compensation rules which could affect the pay scale of employees on a four-day workweek schedule. This is especially true for employers considering a 4-10 workweek. For example, in California, with some limited exceptions, employees receive overtime compensation for shifts over eight hours long. This has obvious implications for the 4-10 workweek. Employees working the same total hours a week would be entitled to more compensation under a 4-10 schedule because they would be entitled to two hours of overtime compensation per day.

California has established a mechanism for employers to institute a 4-10 workweek without paying overtime wages. However, the process involves proposing the modified schedule to all affected employees and holding a secret ballot election to approve the modification. Failure to correctly follow this procedure before instituting a 4-10 workweek could lead to considerable wage and hour exposure for the employer.


At this point only one thing is certain about the four-day workweek is that it’s a gamble. While employers utilizing the four-day workweek will almost certainly attract job-hopping Millennials, there is no guarantee that it will increase productivity or reduce operational costs. One of the inherent risks of adopting the four-day workweek is that you could spend time and money on a new work schedule that ultimately delivers underwhelming results. And, in the wrong state, incorrect implementation of the 4-10 workweek could expose you to significant wage and hour violations. Employers considering implementing a four-day workweek should consult their employment attorney before making the change.

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