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World's largest four-day work week trial nears its midpoint, here's how it's going

As the world’s largest four-day work week experiment nears its halfway point, organizers behind it say there has been significant improvements to people’s wellbeing.

The trial, which is being conducted in the U.K. through partnerships between 4 Day Week Global and researchers at Cambridge, Boston College and Oxford University, includes approximately 3,300 workers across 70 different companies. Businesses who are participating, while only working 80 per cent of their usual hours, are seeing no changes in compensation or productivity.

The trial began in June and will continue until November.

“Anecdotally, companies are suggesting there’s been an overwhelmingly positive experience with revenue and productivity levels, [that have] either maintained or, in some cases, improved,” Charlotte Lockhart, the managing director and founder of 4 Day Week Global, a not-for-profit organization that has been working to support the adoption of a four-day work week since 2018, told BNN Bloomberg in a video interview on Aug. 8.

Well-being indicators, including stress, burnout, sleep quality, family and work-life balance and life satisfaction, all noticed improvements. Lockhart added that, anecdotally, less working hours does not appear to reduce productivity. In some instances, she said, productivity has advanced.

“Everything we're finding so far is backing up what we've always said which is interesting. But I think that the important thing with this research is that we will have empirical data that feeds into that,” Lockhart said.


Dr. Rupert Dunbar-Rees is the founder and chief executive officer of Outcomes Based Healthcare. In a video interview with BNN Bloomberg on Aug. 17, he said that the company was looking for ways to improve productivity before it joined the four-day work week trial.

“The four-day week is really a culmination of that exercise of trying to improve our productivity and really think deeply about what we're doing and how we're doing it,” Dunbar-Rees said.

The U.K.-based company has 11 full-time employees participating in the trial who are working in a hybrid setting. Although implementing the shortened week posed challenges, Dunbar-Rees maintained that the process has been “fairly smooth.”

Hurdles included navigating human resource policies and determining what to do with workers who were already working four-day weeks. Being agile, Dunbar-Rees said, was a top consideration.

“You always anticipate failure, but then you have to plan around the failure,” he said, comparing the adjustment to the company’s work of producing software for the National Health Service.

Despite challenges, Dunbar-Rees said that employees reaped the benefits of reduced working hours, feeling like the time off provided them with a “proper three-day reset.”

“In terms of the plus side, certainly everyone on the team…they've been managing to do lots of things that they just would never have done and come back much more refreshed on a Monday,” said Dunbar-Rees.

“So people are doing eye tests and going to the dentist and doing endless amounts of life admin that would otherwise not get done,” he said. “Half of the solution to a sustainable four-day week has been about looking for efficiencies and productivity improvements,” he said.

“I don’t want to prejudge the outcome of the pilot, but I'd be surprised if we got to the end of this and said, ‘right let's go back to our old way of working,’” he said.


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