The UK Is Testing a 4-day Workweek in the Largest Pilot Program of Its Kind

The pilot program includes 3,300 workers from 70 companies.

People walking in the street in the UK
Photo: Bloomberg / Contributor Getty

Thousands of workers in the United Kingdom are heading to the office for only four days a week in the largest-ever four-day workweek pilot experiment to take place in the world.

The trial, which includes 70 companies and more than 3,300 workers, started on Monday and will run for six months, according to 4 Day Week Global, which is running the pilot in partnership with Autonomy, a think tank, the 4 Day Week UK Campaign, as well as researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University, and Boston College. The concept of the pilot is that workers will receive "100% of the pay for 80% of the time," with the idea that they maintain the same level of productivity.

"The UK is at the crest of a wave of global momentum behind the four-day week," Joe O Connor, the CEO of 4 Day Week Global, said in a statement. "As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are recognizing 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."

For the pilot, several different types of companies from large corporations to online retail, food, beverage, and hospitality services, digital marketing, and more are participating.

At North Norfolk-based Platten's Fish and Chips, which is taking part in the pilot, General Manager Kirsty Wainwright said in a statement the staff will be rotating their days with two days on, followed by two days off.

"The hospitality industry has really unsociable working hours and it needs to change. It's not surprising the industry has been struggling with recruitment given the excessively long working hours," Wainwright said. "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. Having that extra rest and not feeling exhausted means I can be more productive at work too."

Ed Siegel, the CEO of Charity Bank, another company participating in the pilot, said a shortened work week will create happier employees.

"We have long been a champion of flexible working, but the pandemic really moved the goalposts in this regard," Siegel said. "For Charity Bank the move to a four-day week seems a natural next step."

Researchers will monitor and measure the impact on productivity as well as the wellbeing of the workers, the impact on the environment, and the impact on gender equality over the course of the trial. Further government-backed pilots are expected to start later this year in Spain and Scotland, according to 4 Day Week Global.

This isn't the first time a shorter work week has been considered. Last year, Iceland released the results of a four year study of four-day work weeks that was run from 2015 to 2019, showing it helped relieve stress and reduce burnout. New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has also discussed the possibility of moving to the model, suggesting it may help boost domestic tourism.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles