'Some hurdles' | Four-day week trial firms reveal scheme's ups and downs

Four-day week trial firms reveal scheme's ups and downs

British businesses have shed light on the pros and cons of the four-day work week, as a ground-breaking six-month trial of the scheme in the UK reaches its halfway point. 

A wide range of different businesses from, small companies to large corporates, are still engaging in a six-month trial of a four-day week, which has opened up the debate over whether this trial will result in success or reinforce the concept of a traditional five-day working week.

More than 70 organisations across the UK signed up for the  trial, which started at the beginning of June and is being run by 4 Day Week Global. Of the 73 organisations conducting the trial period, 41 have taken part in a recent survey in which 86% responded that they would continue with the four-day week policy after the trial ends.

The initial idea behind the trial is put forth by the 4 Day Week Global CEO, Joe O’Connor, which stated: “The organisations in the UK pilot are contributing real-time data and knowledge that are worth their weight in gold. Essentially, they are laying the foundation for the future of work by putting a four-day week into practice.”

How effective is the four-day week and are organisations benefiting from it so far?

88% of respondents have said that the four-day week is working ‘well’ for their business at this stage in the trial. Also, reports suggest that 86% of respondents at this part in the trial would be ‘extremely likely’ and or ‘likely’ to consider retaining the four-day week policy after the trial period. These results do show a high impact and shift in favour of the four-day week schedule. But, it’s crucial to keep in mind that this four-day week might not benefit all and some organisations have reported concerns.

Waterwise Managing Director, Nicci Russel, stated: “It wasn’t a walk in the park at the start.”

However, Russel also responded: “We certainly all love the extra day out of the office and do come back refreshed. It’s been great for our well-being and we’re definitely more productive already.”

Some organisations that administer a more traditional approach within their structure have pushed their concerns that the shift to a four-day week schedule is a lot more ‘trickier’.

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In addition, Joe O’Conner stated: “We are learning that for many it’s a fairly smooth transition and for some, there are some understandable hurdles- especially among those which have comparatively fixed or inflexible practices, systems or cultures which date back well into the last century.”

On how smooth and effective the transition to a four-day week has been (with five being ‘extremely smooth’ and one being ‘extremely challenging, 29% of respondents selected ‘five', 49% selected ‘four’ and 20% selected ‘three’.

So, with diverging ideas and diverse voices towards the four-day week schedule, it’s just a matter of time before this trial period will end.

This period will ultimately show whether a four-day week helps wellbeing, success and productivity. However, this trial period can also break the odds and display that traditional approaches should be maintained and administered for better employee and employer satisfaction.

However, some of those companies taking part in the trial scheme have found it a struggle – largely because working on a different operational model to the vast majority of businesses in the UK has thrown up obstacles. Samantha Losey, who runs communications company Unity, told The Telegraph: “It's more likely that we won't carry on now. One of the things that has struck me is whether or not we are a mature enough business to be able to handle the four-day week.”

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"The rest of the world not doing four-day weeks makes it challenging,” she added. “We agreed we'd go all the way through the pilot, but I'm questioning whether this is the right thing for us long term. It's been bumpy for sure."

It’s to be expected that more objections to the four-day working week could pop up in the weeks before the trial ends – possibly even from Government itself, given its push for a full post-pandemic return to office – and why it’s important that the scheme continues to be judged on its own merits.

After all, long hours don’t equate to productivity – if that was the case, considering that British workers work the longest hours in Europe, the UK should be the most productive country in Europe. In fact, output per hour worked by UK employees is among the lowest of all the G7 countries, according to data published by the ONS.

So, with several months still to go before the scheme ends, the jury – for now – remains out on its success.

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