As part of an experimental pilot, employees working for more than thirty firms in the UK will have to work four-day week weeks during the next six months. They will receive the same salary.

While campaigners for a decrease in working hours claim it will improve work-life balance, critics warn that it could lead to increased stress because employees will try to fit more work into the available time.

4 Day Week Global is leading the trial. The staff will do the same amount and work up to 35 hours each weeks, but they’ll be working on four days, instead of five.

Although lockdowns made many workers reevaluate their work-life balance issues, the proposed four-day week is designed to allow employees more flexibility and boost productivity.

Joe O’Connor, pilot programme manager for 4 Day Week Global, said the concept will ‘herald in a bold new future of work’ during 2022.

The trial includes Big Potato Games (a board gaming company located in East London), Blink (a digital marketing agency based in Norwich) and Charlton Morris (a specialist search company).

Campaigners calling for a reduction in the number of working days have said it will create a better work-life balance but critics have warned it will lead to more stress as employees attempt to squeeze more work into fewer hours

Although campaigners advocating a shorter work week claim that it will promote a more balanced work/life balance, some critics fear it may cause more stress in employees who try to squeeze as much work into their hours.

According to the Guardian, Morrisons, Unilever and Unilever may switch to a 4-day work week. Meanwhile, the British division of Canon will participate in six-month trial by academics from the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. 

Atom Bank, a finance firm has made the transition to a shorter work week. 

Similar tests are planned for the USA, Canada and Ireland as well Australia and New Zealand. Trials are also being done in Spain, Scotland, and Ireland.

Research has shown that staff who work four days a week are more productive than those who work five. 

Many influencer agencies already have a 4-day work week. Engage Hub is one of them. Employees will be able to choose whether they want to take a Wednesday off or Friday off. This rotation occurs every eight weeks.

Marketing is a competitive industry that often offers higher wages. Workers are subject to heavy work loads and high competition. Many people can expect to work up 60 hours per week. 

Sam O’Brien (Chief Marketing Officer, Affise), said that marketing professionals can be stressed by competing companies and not being up-to-date with digital trends, something which is difficult during the current pandemic.

“The last two years of increased isolation have led to many additional hours at home looking at screens and sitting in uncomfortable positions. It is very bad for your posture, vision, and mental health.

In Iceland, a four day working week trial was carried out, including at Reykjavík City Council, between 2015 and 2019 and labelled an 'overwhelming success' by researchers. Pictured: Radhus Reykjavikur (Reykjavik's City Hall)

In Iceland, a four day working week trial was carried out, including at Reykjavík City Council, between 2015 and 2019 and labelled an ‘overwhelming success’ by researchers. Pictured: Radhus Reykjavikur (Reykjavik’s City Hall)

During the pandemic, it was believed that introducing a four-day working week would boost high street sales by an estimated £58billion, according to Affise.

Because three-day weekends offer shoppers 20% more time for shopping and a potential increase in spending related to DIY and gardening.

O’Brien stated that ‘Starting your own business can take a lot more time, energy, money and creativity. Opting for a weekly workweek is one option many businesses use to lower their expenses.

Microsoft Japan introduced a 4-day week in August 2019 that gave their 2,300 employees five Fridays off.

According to the company, productivity rose by 40%, meeting efficiency was higher, workers were happier, took fewer vacations, and meetings were more productive.

Employers also liked that nine out of 10 employees preferred the shorter work week. 

Finance firm Atom Bank has already made the shift to the shorter working week. Pictured: Atom Bank's chief executive Mark Mullen

Atom Bank is already making the switch to a more flexible working week. Pictured is Atom Bank Chief Executive Mark Mullen

According to Mr O’Connor, “More businesses adopt productivity-focused strategies that allow them to cut worker hours and not reduce pay.”

“We are thrilled by the increasing momentum and interest in both our pilot program, and the 4-day week in general.

‘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. This bold, new model of work will take place in 2022. 

Researchers in Iceland labelled a 4-day trial of Icelandic working hours as an “overwhelming success” between 2015-2019.

Workplaces that took part, including at Reykjavík City Council which ran the trial, moved from 40 hour weeks to 36 or 35 hours with some reporting an improved level of productivity among employees.

It eventually included more than 2500 workers. This is approximately one percent of Iceland’s total workforce. 

Campaigners are pushing for a 4-day work week. However, some critics argue that it will cause more stress to workers trying to fit as much work in as possible into their hours.

Some people believe that this concept is impossible for customer facing positions, 24/7 operations such as the NHS or emergency service. In these cases overtime payments are an added cost to the employer or the taxpayer.

For example, a French trial that tested the 4-day work week found that workers put in as many hours regardless of how much time is left. Companies were also finding it difficult to compensate them for the extra time they were working.