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Rethinking the Work Week: Insights from a Four-Day Trial

The pioneering trial by 4 Day Week Global, in collaboration with Autonomy and the 4 Day Week Campaign, has sparked a conversation about the viability of a four-day working week. Over six months in 2022, 61 companies with roughly 2,900 employees tested the ‘100-80-100’ model: full pay for 80% time commitment, contingent on maintaining full productivity.

While a 92% success rate suggests many businesses adapted well, with 18 confirming the policy as permanent, others are cautiously evaluating the long-term business benefits. Global trials in Ireland and the US have followed, with countries like Brazil and Sweden experimenting with variations to fit diverse business cultures.

In Belgium, a modified version allows workers to choose between a compressed four-day schedule or a traditional five-day one, highlighting the importance of flexible approaches to cater to specific organisational needs.

The four-day week is touted not only as a productivity booster but also as a way to enhance work/life balance and prevent employee burnout. However, implementing such a change requires overcoming ingrained workplace practices like inefficient processes and excessive meetings.

Health and safety stand central in this debate, especially following WHO and ILO reports linking long working hours to serious health risks. Yet, the transition must be managed carefully to avoid unintended consequences, such as increased stress or compromised safety, particularly in high-risk sectors.

For some UK trial participants, the reduced workweek has yielded positive outcomes in staff well-being. Citizens Advice Gateshead, for instance, saw such promising results they’ve made the change permanent. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, though, as some senior employees may still work longer hours due to job demands.

The conversation extends beyond the four-day week to broader considerations of flexible working arrangements. A flexible organisational culture, one that accommodates individual needs and adopts a holistic approach to employee management, is being recognised as vital for future work models.

As OSH professionals navigate this evolving landscape, lessons from the pandemic emphasize the need for robust communication and gradual implementation, avoiding rushed decisions and fostering an environment where reduced working hours are realistic and beneficial goals.



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