The Workers Union has given its backing to a new four day week trial. The project will see workers at participating firms do four-fifths of their hours – but with no loss of pay.
70 firms from a number of different sectors are taking part, ranging from hospitality and healthcare, to banking and media.
Participants have pledged to pay their staff for the equivalent of a 5 day week – despite the cut in working time. The only stipulation is that workers must equal their current productivity in the reduced hours for this four day week trial to work.
A spokesperson for The Workers Union said: ‘When this 4 day week trial was initially announced in February, we offered a cautious welcome. Now the finer details have emerged we think that this could represent an important step forward in redefining the relationship between companies and their employees.’
The 4 day working week trial is being run by academics from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, as well as Boston College. Professor of sociology at Boston, Juliet Schor, a lead researcher on the pilot said: ‘We’ll be analysing 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.
‘The four-day week is generally considered to be a triple dividend policy – helping employees, companies, and the climate. Our research efforts will be digging into all of this’
The Workers Union Says…
Before the pandemic rocked the world, very few companies were interested in disrupting a working model that had existed since the dawn of the industrial revolution. Yeah, there was a bit of home working here, a bit of flexitime there, but there were no substantial changes on the horizon. If anything we’d tumbled back from the gains made before the financial crisis, when company chiefs were starting to explore the ways in which nascent communications technologies could enhance staff wellbeing.
On this basis, we must welcome the 4 day work week trial as a way of seeking answers to questions that have been burning for some time. How best should organisations adapt to the shifting realities of workers’ lives? Is it possible to maintain productivity over a shorter working week? Is this the beginning of a major migration towards distributed working?
It is well that we ask these questions now. The way our economy has been fashioned, many businesses depend on footfall from workers swooping to grab sandwiches at lunchtime or popping out to get groceries for tea. Transport systems need commuters to match the current levels of subsidy and execs want their new offices running at a decent rate of occupancy. If we are to cut hours, then the effects must be assessed before widespread changes are made.
If that sounds unduly negative, then it is not meant to be. This organisation has always believed in British workers and their native genius. We have no doubts that the staff on this trial will show themselves more than capable of meeting their targets in fewer hours. We have strong suspicions that there will be a net dividend for the environment that supports the UK’s emissions targets. Our caution is merely a reflection of the belief that making this work on a national scale would require imagination and a willingness that we do not always see from company leaders. Whatever the outcome of this pilot, then, execs must start to grapple with these issues and offer workers a better deal. Those that grasp the urgency of this issue will thrive. Those that insist that the current model is anything less than broken will join the race to the bottom.