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Four-day working week backed by 86% of trial companies

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Almost nine in ten companies taking part in a groundbreaking trial of a four-day working week have said they are likely to extend the policy beyond the six-month test period.

A survey canvassing opinions at the halfway stage of the trial found that 88 per cent of respondents said it was working well, while 86 per cent said they were likely to consider maintaining the shorter working week once the six-month experiment had come to its end.

More than 70 organisations, spanning a local fish and chip shop to larger companies in sectors including information technology, retail, construction, food and hospitality, signed up for the trial, which began in June. It is being run by 4 Day Week Global, a not-for-profit group, in partnership with Autonomy, the think tank, researchers at Boston College and the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, as well as the 4 Day Week Campaign, a body lobbying for a 32-hour working week with no reduction in pay.

The trial covers more than 3,300 workers and a total of 41 companies responded to the mid-term survey.

“The positive feedback is incredibly encouraging,” Kyle Lewis, co-director of Autonomy, said.

He added that the trial would provide information that “can support other organisations and sectors considering switching to a four-day week in the future”.

On a scale of one to five indicating how smooth the shift had been, with a grade of one representing “extremely smooth”, 78 per cent of respondents rated the move to a shorter week either one or two. Forty-six per cent of businesses surveyed said productivity had been maintained at “around the same level”; 34 per cent reported a “slight” improvement and 15 per cent a “significant” one.

Sharon Platts, chief people officer for Outcomes First Group, a specialist care provider for young adults, said: “The four-day week pilot has been transformational for us so far. We’ve been delighted to see productivity and output increase and have also been able to make it work in our education and care services, which we thought would be far more challenging.”

Others admitted to early difficulties. Nicci Russell, managing director of Waterwise, the water efficiency group, said: “It wasn’t a walk in the park at the start, but no major change ever is. Some weeks are easier than others and things like annual leave can make it harder to fit everything in, but we’re much more settled with it now. It’s been great for our wellbeing and we’re definitely more productive already.”

Joe O’Connor, chief executive of 4 Day Week Global, said: “We are learning that for many it is a fairly smooth transition and for some there are some understandable hurdles, especially among those that have comparatively fixed or inflexible practices, systems or cultures dating back well into the last century.”

He said the trial was “contributing real-time data and knowledge that are worth their weight in gold” and that UK organisations were “laying the foundation for the future of work by putting a four-day week into practice, across every size of business and nearly every sector”.