Thousands of workers in the United Kingdom started a four-day workweek Monday in the largest trial ever of its kind.
Despite working 80% of their usual hours, 3,300 workers from 70 companies — from bars to online retailers to financial services — are expected to receive 100% of their pay for the duration of the six-month trial.
The trial, organized by 4 Day Work Week Global and 4 Day Work Week U.K. Campaign, comes as employers around the world are experiencing an upending of the traditional workplace.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced many to work from home, calls for more flexibility in the workplace have grown. And businesses are primed to listen, as “The Great Resignation” has made it difficult for employers to attract and retain workers.
“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,” Joe O’Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global, said in a statement.
Similar trials are expected to be held in Spain, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia and the U.S. this year.
This week’s trial in the U.K. is not the first time countries have experimented with the workweek. Similar trials, conducted in Iceland from 2015 to 2019, found that workers were more productive and happier working only four days a week. The study showed that businesses start to see diminishing returns as hours increase and employee productivity decreases if they are not given adequate time to rest.
Participants in the trial found the four-day workweek enabled them to spend more time on their hobbies and participate in family activities and they recorded fewer instances of burnout.
Many in the study also found that the shortened workweek enabled employers to trim the fat in their organizations, with many shortening or eliminating meetings in favor of electronic communications such as email and texts.
The traditional 40-hour, five-day workweek is relatively new in the U.S., a product of the Great Depression, and has had challenges throughout the years. Recently, Rep. Mark Takano, California Democrat, has proposed a bill that would shorten the standard workweek to 32 hours.
“At a time when the nature of work is rapidly changing, it’s incumbent upon us to explore all possible means of ensuring our modern business model prioritizes productivity, fair pay, and an improved quality of life for workers,” Mr. Takano said in a statement.
A growing number of U.S. companies have attempted a four-day workweek, all citing improved mental health and productivity among employees.