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The Margin: A new four-day work week experiment is underway in the U.K. — here’s what to know


Employees at 70 U.K. companies are participating in a revolutionary new pilot program that will test the merits of a work week that’s one day shorter than usual.

The program was organized by nonprofit 4 Day Week Global, the 4 Day Week Campaign and research organization Autonomy, and begins the week of June 6. Those three groups recruited companies and organizations to apply to the program, and gave them tools to measure factors like productivity and employee well-being before, during, and after the program.

The program will last six months (June to November) and includes 3,300 employees at 70 companies ranging from the financial services industry to local restaurants, organizers informed MarketWatch. It technically began on June 1, but the Queen’s Jubilee created a shorter work week, so the program will officially take effect the week of June 6.

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As part of the program, employees will work 80% of their normal hours for the week (now 32 hours instead of 40 hours), but receive 100% of their usual pay. One of the goals of the program will be to find out if workers can maintain the same level of productivity while working fewer hours; another goal will be to find out if it will boost employees’ overall quality of life.

“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,” Joe O’Connor, chief executive of 4 Day Week Global, said in a statement.

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Researchers at Cambridge University, Boston College and Oxford University will be analyzing the findings from the program, 4 Day Week Global claimed.

“We’ll be analyzing how employees respond to having an extra day off, in terms of stress and burnout, job and life satisfaction, health, sleep, energy use, travel and many other aspects of life,” Juliet Schor, a sociology professor at Boston College and the researcher on the project, told the New York Times.

Iceland conducted a similar four-day work week program in 2015 that involved 2,500 workers — about 1% of Iceland’s working population — that was dubbed an “overwhelming success” by some researchers as analysis indicated no significant drops on productivity and lower amounts of stress and burnout among workers, according to BBC report.

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In a May episode of its Best New Ideas in Money podcast, MarketWatch examined if the U.S. could ever really get a four-day work week.

In the past, U.S.-based companies including Microsoft

and Shake Shack have experimented with a four-day work week with some success — Microsoft said productivity jumped 40% while employees worked four days a week. That test was conducted in 2019, but Microsoft did not subsequently implement a permanent four-day work week.

According to a 2019 report from Henley Business School, 63% of businesses claimed a four-day work week helped them attract and retain talent. The same report also detailed that 78% of employees with four-day work schedules say they are happier and less stressed.

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On job board site in January 2022, 1,700 jobs for every one million posted were advertised as having a four-day work week, according to Axios.

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