(NewsNation) — The standard nine to five, five-day workweek is outdated and no longer fits its purpose, according to researchers conducting “the biggest ever trial of a four-day week in the world.” Starting Monday, thousands of UK workers across dozens of companies are doing a test trial of a four-day, 32-hour work week with no loss of pay.
The workers receive 100% of their pay for working 80% of their normal shift during the program. They also commit to maintaining 100% of their productivity. The pilot is being coordinated by 4 Day Week Global, in partnership with think tank Autonomy, the 4 Day Week Campaign, and researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University, and Boston College.
Promoting a better work-life balance, the pilot also provides workshops, mentoring, networking, and a wellbeing and productivity assessment. It will span six months and involves 3,300 workers from 70 different companies. Researchers will assess the effects of a four-day workweek on productivity and quality of life and announce results in 2023.
This is the largest study of the four-day work week, but it isn’t the first. Microsoft Japan tested the program for its employees in 2019 and saw productivity go up by 40%. With the goal of improving the mental health and well-being of its employees, a growing list of companies in the U.S., Japan, and New Zealand have already implemented the change.
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has suggested a shorter workweek could save the country’s economy by relying on residents, rather than tourists, to spend money locally on their extra day off. Chicago-based tech company Bolt switched to a four-day workweek permanently this year after a three-month pilot. CEO Ryan Breslow said it forced employees to be more conscious of their time and perform at a higher level.
And in what started as a pilot program in 2020, the city of Morgantown, West Virginia, is now entering its first full year in which most departments are working 40 hours in just four days. “It’s been pretty positive,” said Morgantown Communications Director Andrew Stacy. “There was a little bit of apprehension at first, because it was change—because we didn’t know how it was going to be implemented. But the lack of negativity and the strong support and the positive vibes we are getting from the employees—I don’t see it going away.”
Noted benefits include increased employee satisfaction. Not only do companies with a four-day workweek attract more talent, but they also retain their employees. Joblist reports that 73% of currently employed workers are actively thinking about quitting their jobs.
The traditional approach to work needs a redesign, says economist Juliet Schor. In making the case for a four-day, 32-hour workweek in her TED Talk, Schor explains how this model for the future of work could address major challenges like burnout and the climate crisis.
Still, the change may not come to the U.S. on a larger scale any time soon. A proposal in the California State Legislature that would define the workweek in the state as 32 hours for companies with more than 500 employees was rejected in May. But supporters of the bill have not given up.