Companies to trial four-day workweek

The Royal Society of Biology, another participant in the trial, says it wants to give employees “more autonomy over their time and working patterns”…reports Asian Lite News

Joining the four-day workweek party, UK companies are participating in the initiative that gives an extra day off every week. Employees at the Pressure Drop Brewery in London are taking part in a six-month trial of a four-day working week, with 3,000 others from 60 UK companies.

The pilot — established as the world’s biggest so far — aims to help companies shorten their working hours without cutting salaries or sacrificing revenues. Similar trials have also taken place in Spain, Iceland, the United States and Canada. Australia and New Zealand are scheduled to start theirs in August.

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, a programme manager at 4 Day Week Global, the campaign group behind the trial, said it will give firms “more time” to work through challenges, experiment with new practices and gather data.

According to AFP, he said smaller organisations should find it easier to adapt, since they can make changes and imply them more readily. Pressure Drop, based in Tottenham Hale, is hoping the experiment will not only improve their employees’ productivity but also their well-being. At the same time, it will reduce their carbon footprint.

The Royal Society of Biology, another participant in the trial, says it wants to give employees “more autonomy over their time and working patterns”.

Both hope a shorter working week could help them retain employees. Presently, UK businesses are confronted with severe staff shortages, and job vacancies have hit a record 1.3 million. Pressure Drop brewery’s co-founder Sam Smith said the new way of working would be a learning process.

“It will be difficult for a company like us which needs to be kept running all the time, but that’s what we will experiment with in this trial,” he said.

Smith is thinking of proposing different days off in the week to his employees and deploying them into two teams to keep the brewery functioning throughout.

The service industry plays a huge role in the UK economy, contributing 80 percent to the country’s GDP. A shorter working week is therefore easier to adopt, said Jonathan Boys, a labour economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. But for sectors such as retail, food and beverage, healthcare and education, it’s more problematic.

The biggest challenge will be how to measure productivity, especially in an economy where a lot of work is qualitative, as opposed to that in a factory. Salaries will stay the same in this trial, and employees will have to be as productive in four days as they are five. Yet Aidan Harper, author of “The Case for a Four Day Week”, said countries working fewer hours tend to have higher productivity.

“Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands work fewer hours than the UK, yet have higher levels of productivity,” he told AFP.

“Within Europe, Greece works more hours than anyone, and yet have the lowest levels of productivity.”

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