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Employment

From game designers to chip shops: The largest ever four-day working week trial has begun in the UK

It is hoped the diversity of businesses involved in the trial will show the positives of a four-day working week in almost every sector.

More than 3,000 staff members at 70 firms will be enjoying their first of many four-day working weeks as the largest trial of its kind launches in the UK. 

The highly anticipated six-month pilot involving companies across the four British nations has begun, with the trial seeking to shed some light on the impact a permanent three-day weekend can have on wellbeing, productivity, the environment and gender equality.

The trial is being organised by campaign group  4 Day Week Global in partnership with think tank Autonomy and the 4 Day Week UK Campaign, and will be evaluated by researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College in the US.

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Announced in January, the trial has captured the imagination of the British public and businesses alike, with “hundreds” of companies expressing their interest in the pilot. Those that signed up to participate range from racing games designer Hutch, to the Royal Society of Biology, a Sheffield-based robots company, a housing society in Merthyr Tydfil, and London brewery Pressure Drop Brewing.  

Ed Siegel, CEO of Charity Bank, said he believes participating in the pilot will “put Charity Bank on the right side of history.’”

He said: “The 20th-century concept of a five-day working week is no longer the best fit for 21st-century business. We firmly believe that a four-day week with no change to salary or benefits will create a happier workforce and will have an equally positive impact on business productivity, customer experience and our social mission.”

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The labour shortages plaguing many sectors in the UK as part of The Great Resignation phenomenon, has forced many companies to think more creatively about the benefits they can offer employees to keep them in their jobs. 

“As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are recognising that the new frontier for competition is quality of life, and that reduced-hour, output-focused working is the vehicle to give them a competitive edge,” said Joe O Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global.

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The hospitality industry in particular has had a bumpy ride as it tries to recover from the impacts of Brexit and the pandemic. 

General manager of Platten’s Fish and Chips in Wells-Next-The-Sea, North Norfolk, Kirsty Wainwright, said “the option of working a four-day week was the main reason for choosing to work here.”

The mother of two children already works four days a week at Platten’s, but is confident that the roll-out of the model to all members of staff, with no reduction in pay, will be beneficial for the business as a whole. 

With 17 years experience working in hospitality, Wainwright believes that the industry’s expectations for people to work long, unsociable hours, has to change if it’s to recover from the recruitment crisis.

“On a five day week I didn’t get to see my kids enough. Spending more time with my kids is the best thing about a four-day week. It’s amazing,” she said. Adding that the extra rest left her feeling less exhausted and “more productive at work, too.”

Since the announcement that the chippie would be taking part in the trial, team leader Wyatt Watts said morale had already improved. He hopes that the positive impact will lead to greater productivity, “meaning that stuff can get done quicker.”

“Having a four-day week has left me feeling a lot more positive about staying and working in the industry,” he added. 

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