The British 4-day work week trial with no loss of pay

Would you like to work only 4 days with no loss of pay?

  • Yes

  • Maybe

  • No

  • Not sure

  • Other (explain)

  • Hell no, I like slaving away!


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Retro

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Would you like to work 4 days a week instead of 5 with no loss of pay? I sure would! Unfortunately, I don't think my employer would want to do this anytime soon. It might become the norm in a decade or so though.

I'm putting this in the science and tech section, as this trial is considered a scientific study.

It wasn’t hard for Samantha Losey, managing director of Unity, a public relations firm in London, to convince her team to work fewer hours for the same paycheck.

But it was an uphill battle to persuade her own board to join the world’s biggest pilot of the four-day work week.

“I had to fight very hard for us to do this as a business… nobody was willing. Everyone was very traditionalist,” Losey told CNN Business.

The main concern centered on whether a 20% cut to weekly working hours would lead to a drop in output, and cause clients to flee.

But after a “very difficult journey” to convince her board, and a rocky start, Losey said her team has hit its stride. She said she is 80% sure everyone will keep the routine after November, when the trial ends.

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Tiffany

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I can see where that may apply to a lot of "office" type businesses, with the exception of service and trade businesses that are usually on call 24/7. Four days work and three days off defiantly would be nice though! Isn't France set up that way?

I don't see how you can have the same out put in production with four days and no increase in hours on those four days? Some American businesses would likely fail at this test.🤫:unsure:
 

Retro

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@Tiffany indeed, it wouldn't suit every type of job. However, even something like the emergency services could handle it, by having staff have different days off. As long as there's enough staff to cover and people are willing to come in on their "weekend" days to cover absence, then I don't see a problem with it.

For example, you could have something like this (a simplified example):

Out of 70 staff, the following could be off on any given day:

Monday: 10 staff
Tuesday: 10 staff
Wednesday: 10 staff
Thursday: 10 staff
Friday: 10 staff
Saturday: 10 staff
Sunday: 10 staff

That's all 70 staff covered, with 60 in at any one time, excepting things like sickies and annual leave etc.

@TheURL this thread may be of interest to you.
 

Crims

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It would work for us. Just saying, France generally takes hours off for lunch and having an extra day off isn't farfetched. We've adopted the US' ideology of work all the time, and contactable out of hours is the norm and it's not working.
 

Tiffany

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Makes sense! @Retro, thank you the illustration and seeing how it would work for even emergency services.

@Crims If a sub-set of American's would change their work ethics, most of America could operate this way too. I think there's so much to gain if people had more time with family and friends and constructive work time where the employer is satisfied with the results; win-win!
 

Crims

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@Crims If a sub-set of American's would change their work ethics, most of America could operate this way too. I think there's so much to gain if people had more time with family and friends and constructive work time where the employer is satisfied with the results; win-win!
I recall reading about the protestant work ethic. The UK as a whole is more relaxed, and has weeks and weeks off for holidays per year.
 

Arantor

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It actually has some interesting consequences for businesses depending on their business model.

So, as a point of interest, my company did a 4.5 day week experiment over the summer - the boss wanted us to actually get out and enjoy the summer on Friday afternoons while it was there, but as he noted (and was quite careful to point out) this was at literal cost to the business.

Why? We're a services business, most of our clients are charged by the hour. That meant for those weeks we did the experiment, we weren't bringing in ~37 hours worth of revenue per person per week but nearer to ~32 because while we have a ~40 hour week there's various admin stuff and few people truly are 100% productive 100% of the time they're at work because things like bathroom breaks exist. (And we're office workers, so things like getting up to make tea exist too rather than the '10 minute morning break, 10 minute afternoon break' etc. style of management.)

So you have the fact that this is literally at our cost to do this. But also of interest is that while the more junior members of staff didn't find it that complicated to rearrange their work, me and the boss in particular as more senior members of the team ended up moving when the work happened.

What might have been a light Friday afternoon task became a 'last thing Monday night' task, meaning that we didn't actually *cut* hours, we simply moved when they happened. In reality I think I worked an hour or two less in total those weeks if I were to go back over my timesheeting. I just didn't work the extra on what would have been Friday afternoon.

The net result: if you're going to drop to 80% staffing on the theory that people are actually more productive in those 80% of the hours (so you have theoretically comparable output for the same cost), that might be true, but services businesses can't usually afford to drop 20% of their capacity to make revenue.
 

Retro

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@Arantor I think your personally experienced scenario is a good example of where it doesn't work.

Speaking generally about this now, I don't see how productivity can be the same either, but if the test results say it is when they come in, then I can't argue with hard evidence.

However, before that moment happens, consider that one has a certain basic speed of working, plus there are lots of dependencies where they're waiting on other people and processes for input, so that time can't be shortened. There's only so much that a person can "hurry up" and they tend to settle down to their normal speed after a short time, anyway. Then, surely, productivity is gonna suffer? Perhaps not by as much as 20%, or maybe more than 20% depending on the job, but I can't see how a "work harder" mentality is gonna squeeze 5 days into 4. Perhaps if there are less sickies overall it can compensate, because obviously dead time and when the employee returns, they may not be feeling 100% and hence not as productive. And I'm saying this as someone who would very much like to work 4 days.
 

Arantor

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How the productivity can be the same is fairly easy actually, and several of the places I've worked over the years absolutely would have that work for them.

If you're paid salary and your work is not directly billable to clients (i.e. you're not a direct services company like the one I work for) such that your salary is inherently disconnected from the work you do, it's much easier to not put in 100% effort 100% of the time, and do the daily targets you've been set without busting a gut over it.

My mortgage days absolutely worked like that, I had targets of 'do x of these per day, y of those per day' - if there weren't that many in, fair enough, but as long as I did my daily quota, no-one really cared what I did with the rest of my time, and my time wasn't tracked or otherwise accounted for.

As a result for most of the time I was in that part of the business, work was fluid - people who didn't have too much to do would make the work they had fit the time they had. So if the requirements were 'do a total of 25 x and 100 y a week', that's 5 x and 20 y per 5 day week, but in reality that wasn't *that* hard to do 6 x and 25 y in 4 days. Especially if you had the extra day off to not feel ground up in it.

In any case, the 40 hour week model is mostly a strange artefact of times past; when it was more of a practical upper limit for more physical work rather than the services/knowledge economy we have now. There's really no need to cling to it when a more practical flexible time model should be investigated.
 

Retro

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I like that explanation, Arantor.

Yes, to summarize, it's just taking up slack which if one has enough of, would be no big deal.

I was implied thinking of the situation where someone is already fully preoccupied with their job since many have a tendency to keep increasing the load on the employee, hence giving them a shorter time to do the same work in will necessarily result in lower output.

This is why I said that a shorter week depends on the job, as the details matter a helluva lot here.
 
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