The six-month pilot project in the UK involves 3,300 workers in 70 companies working 80% of a normal week. Companies explain how they adapted. And the workers talk about changing lives.
The workers are tired.
More than two years after the pandemic, many burn out“Burned out,” quit their jobs, or struggle to survive as record inflation cuts their pay dramatically.
But over the past eight weeks, thousands of people in the UK have tested a four-day schedule – without a pay cut – that could help usher in a new era of work.
It is the world’s largest four-day work week experience to date. Some workers say they feel happier, healthier and better at their jobs.
Lisa Gilbert, loan services manager at Charity Bank, an ethical lending bank in the south west of England, describes her new daily routine as “phenomenal”.
“Now I can really enjoy the weekend because I have Friday for housework and other little things or… if I just want to go out with my mom, I can do it now without feeling guilty,” she says. CNN.
Gilbert takes care of his son and two elderly parents. The extra day off per week means she no longer has to pick up groceries at 6 am on Saturday and can spend more time with her family. “I think I’m saying ‘yes we can’ rather than ‘no, we’re sorry we can’,” he says.
The six-month pilot project involves 3,300 workers in 70 companies working 80% of their regular week in exchange for a promise to maintain 100% productivity.
The program is being led by non-profit think tank 4 Day Week Global, Autonomy and the 4 Day Week UK Campaign, in partnership with researchers from the University of Cambridge, Oxford University and Boston College.
The researchers will measure the impact the new labor standard will have on productivity levels, gender equality, the environment, and the well-being of workers. At the end of November, companies can decide whether to keep the new schedule.
But for Gilbert, the verdict is already in: he “changed lives,” he says.
However, the transition was not without setbacks.
Samantha Losey, managing director of London-based public relations agency Unity, told CNN the first week was “truly chaotic” as her team was unprepared for shorter transfers.
“To be completely honest with you, those first two weeks were a real mess. We were all over the store. I thought I made a huge mistake. I didn’t know what I was doing,” she says.
But his team quickly found ways to make the week work. Now the company has banned all internal meetings lasting more than five minutes, all meetings with clients are limited to 30 minutes, and in order to avoid unnecessary disruptions, they have introduced a “traffic light” system – colleagues have a traffic light on their desk, and they turn it on. to “green” if they are available to talk, “orange” if they are busy but able to talk, and “red” if they don’t want to be interrupted.
By week four, Losey said her team had done their best, but she admits there is “absolutely” a chance she could recover the five-day schedule if performance levels dropped during the six-month trial period.
“There’s a good 25% chance we won’t be able to keep it. [a semana de quatro dias]but the team is still incredibly fighting for her,” she said.
“Like a library”
Until last month, Iceland was running the world’s largest four-day workweek pilot project. Between 2015 and 2019, the country sent 2,500 public sector workers on two trials.
It is important to note that these experiments did not lead to a corresponding drop in productivity and a dramatic improvement in the welfare of workers.
Gary Conroy, founder and CEO of 5 Squirrels, a skincare manufacturer on the south coast of England, has brought in the concept of “deep hours” to keep his employees productive.
For two hours each morning and two hours each day, Conroy’s team ignores emails, calls, or messages from teams and focuses on their projects.
“The whole office is like a library and everyone just lowers their heads and breaks their work,” he said.
According to a survey of 10,600 workers conducted by Asana last September, people spend most of their day in “busy work” mode – they really work for the sake of work. A software company found that workers in the United States spend about 58% of their day doing activities like answering emails and attending meetings rather than doing the job they were hired for.
Meetings at the company used to be a “conversation” but are now limited to 30 minutes and only allowed for two hours outside of “business hours,” Conroy said.
The results exceeded all expectations.
“[A equipa] began to realize that they were crushing projects that they had always put on the back burner,” Conroy said.
“Relevant to the 21st century”
The extra day has given many workers the opportunity to pursue new hobbies, pursue long-held ambitions, or simply spend more time in their relationships.
The workers in the pilot took cooking classes, piano lessons, volunteering, fishing and ice skating, their employers told CNN.
For Emily Morrison, director of customer experience at Unity, who has struggled with anxiety for most of her adult life, the benefits were more fundamental.
“More downtime and fewer weekend fears helped me improve my mental health and approach the week with more positivity rather than stress,” he told CNN.
More than two years after the pandemic, dozens of workers have reached their breaking point. A survey last year by McKinsey of 5,000 employees around the world found that almost half of them reported feeling at least a little burnt out. [“burned-out”].
Losey said one of the main reasons he decided to bring Unity into the pilot project was to compensate for the “extreme burnout” his people experienced during the worst of the pandemics.
Mark Howland, director of marketing and communications for Charity Bank, told CNN he uses his day off to improve his health and fitness. He always wanted to compete in a triathlon, but felt guilty about spending time away from his family to train. Not now.
“On my day off, I would ride my bike for a long time, take care of myself, find time, and then spend the whole weekend doing household chores and spending time with my family,” Howland said.
It is unlikely that the bank will return to what it was before.
“The five-day work week is a 20th century concept that no longer fits the 21st century,” he concluded.