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A big test of the 4-day work week is underway. Backers think it could help productivity: NPR


More than 3,300 workers in the UK are taking part in the world’s largest pilot of the four-day working week. The experiment will last six months while researchers track how people react to an extra day off.

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More than 3,300 workers in the UK are taking part in the world’s largest pilot of the four-day working week. The experiment will last six months while researchers track how people react to an extra day off.

Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Over the next six months, thousands of people across the UK will work 32 hours a week in the biggest four-day working week pilot the world has ever seen.

The experience includes more than 3,300 people across 70 companies in industries ranging from healthcare to local fish and chip shops. It is put together by 4 Day Week Global, the 4 Day Week campaign, the UK-based think tank Autonomy and researchers from Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College.

the idea is quite simple. Workers earn the same amount of money as a 40-hour workweek, but they only work 80% of the time. In exchange for fewer hours, workers agree to maintain the productivity they would have in a five-day work week.

Calls for a 32-hour work week have grown, especially as many around the world face pandemic-induced burnout.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are recognizing that the new frontier of competition is quality of life, and that short-time, performance-driven work is the way to give them an edge. competitive,” said Joe O’Connor. , CEO of 4 Day Week Global, said in a statement.

“The impact of the ‘Great Quit’ now proves that workers across a wide range of industries can perform better while working shorter and smarter,” he said.

Will Stronge, research director at Autonomy, focuses on the results of a 32-hour work week. Stronge, who is also the co-author of Overtime: why we need a shorter working week, told NPR life kit podcast last year that in some ways the five-day workweek is outdated and leading to what he calls the introduction of overtime into our personal lives.

“Our work culture has changed to one where it’s much more about going above and beyond – working beyond your hours either for better career prospects or simply because your boss requires you to. “, did he declare. “Now during the pandemic, you’re in your living room with your laptop. So it’s hard to turn off this creep that has seeped into our professional lives.”


If people were given an extra day off, Stronge said many said they would take care of personal chores or spend more time with family and friends.

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If people were given an extra day off, Stronge said many said they would take care of personal chores or spend more time with family and friends.

Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

Stronge argued that a shorter workweek would be better for people’s mental health and could even increase productivity.

“For many organizations, what you lose in work time, you gain in greater work productivity,” he said. “You can’t concentrate all the time, especially if you’re overworked and burnt out. So reducing the work week has paid dividends in terms of productivity and well-being workers, which means they come to work invigorated. They come to work loving their work a little more and kind of wanting to do the job so they can have a good weekend and so on.”

Researchers will measure any change in productivity

As the large UK pilot gets underway, productivity is one area researchers will focus on.

“We will analyze how employees react to an extra day off, in terms of stress and burnout, job and life satisfaction, health, sleep, energy consumption, travel and many other aspects of life,” said sociology professor Juliet Schor. at Boston College, said in a statement.

Although it will take at least six months before the final results of the UK pilot are revealed, a similar experiment conducted by Microsoft Japan in 2019 resulted in a 40% increase in productivity. Earlier, a New Zealand company testing four-day weeks reported a 20% increase in employee productivity in 2018.

Trials in Iceland of some 2,500 workers between 2015 and 2019 found that productivity stayed the same or improved in most cases.

And when it comes to the extra weekend day people take, Stronge said a lot of people say they would use the extra day off to complete personal chores or spend more time with friends and family. .

“It makes a huge difference,” Stronge said. “And so I think it should – it would be a bit of a game changer.”

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