The UK’s four-day work week pilot program has showcased new possibilities for hopeful professionals looking to cut down their time spent in the office and achieve a greater work-life balance.
The program, which comes in partnership with nonprofit organization 4 Day Week Global, the 4 Day Week UK campaign, as well as Cambridge University, Oxford University, and Boston College, is also exploring how this reduced work schedule could impact not just productivity, but a means of attracting and retaining talent in the future.
“In terms of demand we’ve had more expressions of interest in the UK in the first week than we’ve had over several months in the US and Canada,” said Joe O’Connor, pilot program manager at 4 Day Week Global. “The degree of interest in the UK is quite remarkable, so we’re in a space where we think there’ll be 50 organizations [taking part] or more.”
The UK isn’t the first to explore what a shorter work week could offer the economy. Between 2015 and 2019, Iceland ran two trials where companies operated under 35 to 36-hour work weeks. The findings revealed that productivity either improved or remained the same.
However, one glaring issue some four-day work week experiments have faced is expecting the same amount of work hours within a shorter period of time. This leads to employees skipping breaks, working late, and putting in even longer work days than before.
To address this discrepancy, some companies have taken a slightly different approach to a shorter week. For instance, UK recruitment firm MRL Consulting Group closed its offices every Friday, which led to a spike in productivity levels and enhanced employee health.
Still, some experts explain that the four-day work week may not be ideal for all industries and roles.
“Companies operate within all kinds of structures. Some will be able to accommodate a shortened working week, and, for others, it would be totally inappropriate,” said Ben Gateley, CEO and cofounder of online HR provider Charlie HR. “Those with customer-facing roles or with ‘always-on’ tech deliverables will find a four day week will be far from practical.”