Companies in the United Kingdom are testing a four-day workweek
Companies in the United Kingdom are testing a four-day workweek

Louis Bloomsfield inspects the kegs of beer at his north London brewery, looking forward to June, when he’ll have an extra day off every week.

The 36-year-old brewer intends to utilise the time to volunteer, begin a long-overdue particle physics course, and spend more time with his family.

With 3,000 others from 60 UK enterprises, he and his colleagues at the Pressure Drop brewery are participating in a six-month trial of a four-day working week.

The experiment, which is being billed as the world’s largest so far, intends to assist businesses in reducing working hours without compromising salaries or income.

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Spain, Iceland, the United States, and Canada have all held similar trials. Australia and New Zealand will begin theirs in August.

The trial would provide businesses “extra time” to work through difficulties, experiment with new processes, and gather data, according to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, a programme manager at 4 Day Week Global, the advocacy group behind it.

Smaller businesses should have an easier time adapting because they can make large adjustments more quickly, he told AFP.

Pressure Drop, situated in Tottenham Hale, is hopeful that the trial would boost not only the productivity but also the well-being of their personnel.

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Simultaneously, their carbon impact will be reduced.

Another trial participant, the Royal Society of Biology, says it wants staff to have “greater authority over their time and working routines.”

Both companies are hoping that a shortened work week will help them retain employees at a time when the UK is grappling with significant labour shortages and a record 1.3 million job openings.

Not everything is as it appears.

The new manner of working, according to Pressure Drop brewery co-founder Sam Smith, will be a learning experience.

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It will be impossible for a corporation like ours to remain operational at all times, but that is what we will try in this trial,” he said.

Smith is considering giving his staff various days off during the week and dividing them into two teams in order to keep the brewery running.

Unilever was only able to experiment a shortened work week for its 81 employees in New Zealand since the Auckland office does not produce anything and all employees work in sales or marketing.

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The service sector accounts for 80% of the UK economy’s GDP.

According to Jonathan Boys, a labour economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a shorter working week is therefore easier to implement.

However, it is more problematic in industries like retail, food & beverage, healthcare, and education.

The most difficult task, according to Boys, will be determining how to quantify productivity, particularly in an economy where most of the work is qualitative rather than quantitative.

Employees will have to be as productive in four days as they are in five days in order for a company to not lose money in this trial, because salaries will remain the same.

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However, Aidan Harper, author of “The Case for a Four-Day Week,” claims that countries with shorter workweeks are more productive.

“Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands work less hours than the UK yet produce more,” he told AFP.

“With the lowest levels of output in Europe, Greece works the most hours of everyone.”

Recruiting a superpower

Employees in the United Kingdom work an average of 36.5 hours per week, compared to upwards of 40 hours in Greece, according to database provider Statista.

Offering a shortened workweek, according to Phil McParlane, founder of Glasgow-based recruiting firm, is a win-win situation, and he even refers to it as a “hiring superpower.”

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His company only offers four-day work weeks and positions that are flexible.

In the last two years, the number of enterprises looking to hire through the platform has increased from 30 to 120, as many people evaluated their priorities and work-life balance as a result of the pandemic.