How The World's Biggest 4-Day Week Pilot Programme Altered People's Lives To Fit For the 21st Century!

How The World's Biggest 4-Day Week Pilot Programme Altered People's Lives To Fit For the 21st Century!

Updated on August 01, 2022 17:19 PM by Andrew Koschiev

More than a couple of years into the pandemic, many individuals have worked too hard, quit their jobs, or are stumbling to make ends meet as record inflation takes a massive bite out of their paychecks.

However, for the last eight weeks, thousands of individuals in the UK have tested a four-day schedule, with no cut to their pay, that could help usher in a new era of work.

It's the world's most extensive trial of a four-day work week. Already, many workers have said they feel happier and healthier and are doing better in their jobs.

'Phenomenal!'

The lending services manager at Charity Bank, an ethical loans provider in southwest England, Lisa Gilbert, describes her new routine as "phenomenal."

She said, "I can enjoy my weekend now because I have got my Friday for my duties and my other bits and pieces or... if I just want to take my mother out for a walk, I can do that now without feeling guilty."

Gilbert cares for two elderly parents and her son. The extra day off a week allows her to devote more time to her family.

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She said, "I find that I'm saying 'yes we can as opposed to 'no sorry we can't.'"

The 6-month pilot commits 3,300 workers across 70 firms to work 80% of their usual week to promise to maintain 100% of their productivity.

The program is run by a think tank, not-for-profit 4 Day Week Global, Autonomy, and the four-Day Week UK Campaign in partnership with researchers from Oxford University, Cambridge University, and Boston College.

Researchers will analyze the impact of the new working pattern on productivity levels, gender equality, the environment, and worker well-being. The organizations can decide whether or not to stick with the new pattern at the end of November.

However, Gilbert's verdict is already in: it's been "life-changing," she said.

Hiccups!

The managing director at Unity, Samantha Losey, said that the first week was "genuinely chaotic," with her group unprepared for the shorter work handovers.

Losey said, "To be honest, those first two weeks were really a mess. We were all over the shop. I thought I'd made a huge error. I didn't know what I was doing."

However, her crew quickly found ways to make it work. Now, the firm has banned all internal meetings longer than five minutes, keeps all client meetings to thirty minutes, and has introduced a "traffic light" system to prevent unnecessary disturbances; employees have a light on their table and set it to 'amber' if they are busy but available to speak,  'green' if they are happy to talk, and 'red' if they do not want to be interrupted.

By the 4th week, Losey said, her crew had hit their stride but admits there is "absolutely" a possibility she could reinstate a 5-day schedule if productivity levels drop throughout the six-month trial.

She said, "There is a good 25% chance that we will not get to keep it, but the team so far is fighting very hard for it."

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'Like a library.'

Iceland had conducted the world's most extensive four-day work week trial until last month. The country put 2,500 public sector employees through two pilots between 2015 and 2019.

Crucially, those pilots found no corresponding drop in productivity and a dramatic increase in employee well-being.

The founder and CEO of 5 Squirrels, Gary Conroy, has brought in "deep work time" to ensure his workers remain productive.

For 2-hours every morning and every afternoon, Conroy's employees ignore emails, calls, or Teams messages and concentrate on their projects.

He said, "The whole place goes like a library, and everybody just gets their head down and smashes through the work."

Individuals spend most of their day on 'busywork,' or work for work's sake, as per a survey of 10,600 staff by Asana last September.

The software firm found that the workers in the US spend about 58% of their day on activities such as answering emails and attending meetings rather than the work they were hired for.

Conroy admitted meetings at the company used to be a "talking shop" but are now capped at 30 minutes and only permitted in the two hours outside of 'deep work time.'

The results have exceeded everyone's expectations.

Conroy said, "The team started realizing that they were smashing projects that they had always put on the back burner."

Not guilty anymore!

The extra day has allowed many workers to take up new hobbies, fulfill longstanding ambitions, or invest more time in their relationships.

Their bosses said that workers on trial had taken cooking classes, piano lessons, volunteering, fishing, and rollerskating.

For Emily Morrison, an account director at Unity who has battled anxiety for much of her adult life, the benefits have been more fundamental.

She continued, "Having more downtime and less 'Sunday scariest over the weekend has helped improve my mental health and approach the week with a more positive attitude, rather than coming in stressed."

More than two years into the pandemic, scores of workers have reached their limit. A McKinsey survey of 5,000 global workers last year found that nearly half reported feeling at least somewhat burned out.

Losey said a significant reason she enrolled Unity into the pilot was to compensate for the "extraordinary level of burnout" her staff faced during the worst pandemic.

The Charity Bank's director of marketing and communications, Mark Howland, said he uses his day off to improve his health and fitness.

He has always wanted to compete in a triathlon but has felt guilty spending time away from his family to train. Not anymore.

Howland said, "With my day off I've been going on quite long bike rides, looking after myself, taking some time out, and then having the whole weekend to get things done around the house and to spend time with family."

The bank is unlikely to go back to the way things were. He said, "The five-day working week is a 20th-century concept, which is no longer fit for the 21st century."

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