4-day week: a large-scale test for the UK

From June to December, a 4-day week experiment will be carried out in the UK. More than 3,000 employees from 60 different companies will take part, under the guidance of researchers and think tanks who will study the impact of this new work organization on employee well-being and productivity. Zoom on this large-scale test.

Measuring the impact on productivity and well-being

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted companies to review traditional models of work organization. In addition to the development of telecommuting, the question of reducing working hours has also become part of the general debate.

In the UK, a vast experiment will enable over 3,000 employees from 60 different companies to test the 4-day week for several months, from June to December 2022. Numerous business sectors are represented, including pharmaceuticals, consulting and catering.

This pilot program will take place under the watchful eye of researchers from the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Boston College, as well as the think tanks 4 Day Week Global and Autonomy, who believe that the 4-day week is destined to become the norm.

The aim of this large-scale experiment is to measure the concrete impact of this new work organization on employees' well-being, as well as on their productivity, in order to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of this model.


The 4-day week tested in Iceland, Belgium and Spain

While such experimentation has never before taken place in the UK, several European countries have taken the lead.

In Iceland, a similar program was tried out over a long period, between 2015 and 2019. During these 4 years, 2,500 Icelanders employed in the public sector (administration, schools, hospitals) worked 35 hours instead of 40 hours a week, 4 days a week, with no reduction in salary.

Launched by the Icelandic government and Reykjavik city council, and implemented in the field by two think tanks, this experiment found that productivity had not fallen, and had even risen in some cases. In the service sector, for example, many unnecessary tasks were eliminated and meeting times were shortened, thereby maintaining productivity.

What's more, employees who took part in the program said they felt better, more valued, and felt they had found a better work-life balance. However, some employees did not appreciate the new organization, which implied a change in working methods. Among managers, many were unable to reduce their working hours due to work overload.

In Belgium, employees who so wish will soon be able to work 9.30 hours a day over 4 days a week, as proposed by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo as part of a labor market reform project.

Spain has also launched an experiment involving 200 volunteer companies over a 3-year period. This pilot program has a budget of 50 million euros. Not all participating companies are applying the same policy, with some, like Desigual, deciding not only to reduce working hours, but also salaries.