British companies bet on the four-day week

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British companies bet on the four-day week

Dozens of companies in the UK are taking part in a huge pilot project to test the four-day working week days.

Employees at Crystallised, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, work four days a week.

“Today is Friday,” says Laura Rothwell, managing director of communications agency Crystallised.

In fact, our interview at the premises of the small business, based in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, in the North East of England, is taking place on a Thursday. But here it's been the norm for a while now: the offices are closed on Fridays.

Everyone's off on Fridays, and there's no change in pay, says Laura Rothwell, explaining Crystallised's preferred 32-hour, four-day work week model.

Acknowledges that the formula presents challenges. When a holiday is added to the week, it can be stressful and chaotic, due to the need to reorganize work tasks.

Nevertheless, Laura Rothwell draws a positive assessment of this practice, which has been in force for a few years now. The firm's clients have gotten used to it and so have the employees.

“Employees are busy and tired . Our schedules are full. But having three days off allows you to really rest and show up to work on Monday with an energy that you wouldn't necessarily have had with a five-day week. »

— Laura Rothwell, Managing Director of Crystallised

Laura Rothwell, Managing Director of Crystallised, would not return to the week of four days.

An observation shared by his colleague, Jane Emery.

At first, I felt bad not working on Fridays, but I got used to it, and now I can spend more time with my family and friends, she explains.

Crystallised's example is far from unique to the UK. For three months, more than 70 companies across the country have participated in a project that is being monitored by researchers from the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Boston. Their employees work one day less, but their salary is not changed.

The portrait of the groups taking part is diverse, ranging from restaurants to banks.

At the end of September, halfway through this trial period, the first results were returned by 4 Days Week Global, the organization that oversees the initiative.

Thus, according to preliminary data, 88% of the 40 respondents say that the formula works well for their company.

In terms of productivity, 95% of them say that the level has been maintained or even improved.

  • In Spain, the government offers a financial aid to dozens of companies that voluntarily participate in a pilot project;

  • In Belgium, a law that will allow employees in the public and private sectors to condensing a 38-hour schedule into four days has just been adopted.

This initial assessment even prompted a member of the Labor Party, which forms the official opposition in Westminster, to table a bill in favor of a four-day week, the debates of which are to take place this month.

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The UK parliament is due to debate a four-day week bill in mid-October.

In February, economist Robert Skidelsky wrote in the pages of the Daily Mail that in his opinion going to a four-day week for an equivalent salary did not make sense, given the economic situation from the United Kingdom.

After the pandemic, the economy needs to grow; Artificially limiting working weeks would be catastrophic, he argued.

Nevertheless, the idea appeals even beyond the private sector.

The rural district of South Cambridgeshire, close to the city of Cambridge, will pilot the four-day week with part of its workforce of 700 workers from January.

According to councilor and district manager Bridget Smith, the idea of ​​a 30-hour work schedule over four days could appeal to future employees that the municipality is sorely lacking at the moment.

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“Over the past few weeks we have posted some very interesting jobs, but we haven't received any applications. ”

— Bridget Smith, South Cambridgeshire District Councilor

The elected official recognizes that in order to be able to offer essential services to citizens, adjustments will be necessary, hence the need a trial period of a few months.

That doesn't mean the office will be closed on Fridays. We have to be available to our residents five days a week, she explains.

At the Crystallised premises in Newcastle, the formula adopted a few years ago is in all case there for good.

I don't think we could go back. I wonder how long it would take before there was a mutiny, laughs Laura Rothwell.

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