Organizers of the world’s biggest trial of the four-day working week have launched a bid to get more companies to try the idea after receiving global coverage.
The 4-Day Week Campaign said it aimed to get hundreds more companies to adopt the four-day week – mostly without loss of wages for workers – after the six-month trial ended this month. Autonomy, a think tank backing the campaign, said it would help companies transition during a national rollout.
Of the 61 companies that entered the six-month trial period, 56 have extended the four-day week policy, including 18 that have already made it permanent.
The campaign aims to shift working culture norms from 40-hour, five-day weeks to 32-hour weeks. The five-day week was itself an improvement over the six-day week that was common before the emergence of the trade union movement in the late 19th century.
The trial received worldwide media coverage and commentary, including from Bernie Sanders, the prominent left-wing US senator who campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Sanders tweeted: “Workers should benefit from technology, not just corporate CEOs.”
Proponents of the four-day week argue that productivity improvements across the economy should mean that workers can in many cases produce the same product in less time. Productivity growth has been the key to improving living standards over the decades.
However, the UK government has so far shown no enthusiasm for the idea. Martin Callanan, the business minister, told parliament in September that the government had not assessed the costs and benefits of a four-day week. Another Conservative, Howard Lee, said the policy would have a “disastrous effect” because it would be “difficult for colleagues to work effectively if some are unavailable for 20% of the time”.
However, some large companies have begun to experiment with new approaches. Last week, Sainsbury’s, the UK’s second-largest supermarket, said it would trial offering some employees the chance to work four days a week. His trial does not involve a reduction in total hours, but rather allows workers to squeeze the same number of hours into four days.
In November, the UK arm of the global campaign reached the 100 company milestone, with many citing benefits gained in employee wellbeing, motivation and retention. Campaign managers believe they can more than double by the end of this year given the level of interest.
Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week campaign, said: “The huge response we’ve seen to the pilot results just shows that people are ready for a four-day working week. We’ve had 100 years of the 9-5, five-day work week, and it’s time for a change. Moving to a four-day week would give us all the time we need to live happier and more fulfilled lives.”