3,000 workers at 60 companies in UK to take part in biggest trial of four-day week

UK experiment comes after the UAE reduced its working week to 4.5 days

Commuters on London Bridge make their way into offices during the morning rush hour. PA
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Thousands of workers across the UK are taking part in an experiment that could move the country towards a four-day working week.

The UK experiment is believed to be the largest single study taken into the fundamental change in workplace practices.

It comes after the UAE reduced its working week to 4.5 days, and Belgium became the first country in Europe to offer a four-day week.

Oxford and Cambridge universities are overseeing the trial in partnership with the campaign groups — 4 Day Week Global, the 4 Day Week UK Campaign — and the Autonomy think tank.

“Workers have emerged from the pandemic with different expectations around what constitutes a healthy life/work balance,” said Joe O’Connor, pilot programme manager at 4 Day Week Global.

“Sometimes it takes a big disrupter to dislodge deeply embedded societal and cultural norms. That's what we are seeing with the traditional five-day working week following the Covid-induced flexible working revolution.

“Those who think we will turn the clock back to the way things were two years ago are engaged in 'pie in the sky' thinking — the four-day week is an idea whose time has come.”

In the UK, more than 3,000 people from 60 companies have joined the experiment. If successful it may be extended and expanded.

Among the organisations taking part is the Royal Society of Biology, a Manchester-based medical devices company, and a fish and chip shop in Norfolk.

“More and more businesses are moving to productivity focused strategies to enable them to reduce worker hours without reducing pay,” Mr O’Connor said.

“We are excited by the growing momentum and interest in our pilot programme and in the four-day week more broadly.

“The four-day week challenges the current model of work and helps companies move away from simply measuring how long people are “at work”, to a sharper focus on the output being produced. 2022 will be the year that heralds in this bold new future of work.”

A pilot project involving about 2,500 workers in Iceland by Reykjavík city council and the national government was the previous biggest trial for the four-day week.

Updated: April 05, 2022, 9:25 AM