Flexibility feedback | Morrisons scraps 4-day week at head office after complaints from staff

Morrisons scraps 4-day week at head office after complaints from staff

Morrisons has scrapped its four-day work week model at its head office, following staff complaints about the operating model.

The supermarket giant had been running the shorter working week at its HQ in Bradford since 2020, reducing the weekly hours of corporate employees from 40 to 37.5.

However, the reduced weekday schedule meant that staff were required to work a Saturday shift once every four weeks, reportedly a strategy designed to help head office staff support the firm’s supermarkets during their busiest trading times.

It was a catch that many employees were unhappy with, prompting them to raise concerns with management.

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As a result, Morrisons has now shifted away from the four-day week, moving to a four-and-a-half day pattern, which will affect around 2,000 HQ staff.

A spokesperson for the retailer said: "The Saturdays have now been dropped following colleague feedback and we will work an extra half-day per week instead. The hours remain unchanged."

Joe Ryle, director of the 4-Day Week Campaign said: "Morrisons four-day week experiment was an important first step but still quite a long way off a true four-day, 32-hour working week.

"Being required to work on Saturdays was never going to be popular and isn't really a four-day week."

Could AI help spearhead the four-day week?

Morrisons may be scrapping its four-day week model, but could technological advancements pave the way for its return in the near future, without the unnecessary burden on employees’ weekends?

According to a recent study from the think tank Autonomy, artificial intelligence is likely to make nearly a third of the UK workforce switch to a four-day week within the next ten years.

In the report titled GPT-4 (Day Week), its authors say that roughly 8.8million UK workers, around 28% of the British workforce, could reduce their 44-hour week to a 32-hour working week by 2023.

This is because of the expected productivity gains this powerful technology is likely to bestow on society, freeing up a significant number of tasks, and therefore time, for employees across a variety of industries.

“Our research offers a fresh perspective in debates around how AI can be utilised for good,” said Will Stronge, the director of research at Autonomy. “A shorter working week is the most tangible way of ensuring that AI delivers benefits to workers as well as companies. If AI is to be implemented fairly across the economy, it should usher in a new era of four-day working weeks for all.”

The paper says this AI-aided shift is largely caused by the augmentation of roles, which will see the integration of AI into jobs, and a policy that reduces working hours could help governments bypass widespread unemployment and a wellbeing crisis.

The study also reveals that a further 88 percent of the UK’s workforce, which equates to 27.9million workers, could have their hours reduced by at least 10 percent through the introduction of large language models (LLMs).

London, Elmbridge and Wokingham are the areas in the UK most likely to include those workers with a four-day week.

“This study tries to show that when the technology is deployed to its full potential, but the purpose of the technology is shifted, it can not only improve work practices, but also improve work-life balance," continued Stronge.

“What I think would be really impressive would be a robust AI industrial strategy, with automation hubs where trade unions, industry and experts in this tech get together to say: ‘We’re going to boost productivity, and this is also going to be something which delivers for the workers.’”

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