- A UK pilot program is testing out a four-day work week for 3,300 employees at 70 companies.
- One of the companies involved started early – it’s been testing out a four-day week since January.
- The associate director of the firm said that productivity, profits, and morale have all increased this year.
- For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
A year ago, leaders at Girling Jones – a construction-recruitment firm in Devon, England – brainstormed ways to make their company more appealing to potential workers.
Fiona Blackwell, associate director of the firm, told Insider that the group debated a number of different ideas, such as raising pay or reducing working hours. But one idea kept popping up: a four-day work week.
Blackwell, 34, said that a recent successful trial of a four-day week in Iceland inspired her team to implement its own year-long test this past January, in which Girling Jones’ dozen employees would get paid the same amount of money for fewer days of work. Although it started out as an endeavor to make hiring and retaining employees easier, Blackwell said that it “became something much bigger,” creating a more productive environment during working hours and improving mood among staff, in addition to seeing a boost in profits.
“The reason we’re doing it now is that people are happier,” Blackwell said. “If your home life is great and you’re balancing home life and hobbies, you’re going to come into work happier and that’s a direct link there… that’s why we’re doing it now, more than the original reason.”
Girling Jones joined about 70 other British companies this month in trying out the four-day work week, in a pilot program that will last six months and involve 3,300 workers across many industries, including food production, marketing, and tech. The program, called 4 Day Work Week Global, is a collaboration between three non-profit organizations, a labor think-tank, and researchers at three universities in the United Kingdom and United States. Girling Jones was asked to be a part of the program, months after instituting a four-day week test on its own.
4 Day Week Global proposes a truncated work week in order to improve mental health and well-being among the global workforce – but as Blackwell points out, a shorter week might also be just what employers need to entice workers to join and stay on the payroll .
That’s because workers in both the US and the UK have been quitting their jobs in droves over the past year as part of “the Great Resignation.” Workers have been seeking better pay, safer working conditions, and a better work-life balance, with many saying they would quit if they were forced to come back into the office full-time. With all the job hopping and workers resisting a return to the office, companies like Blackwell’s have been searching for ways to keep their employees happy – and a four-day work week might be the answer.
“We’re trying to ensure that people stay, because we’re the first recruitment agency to do it here,” Blackwell said. “Doing their job in this environment would make it hard for people to go back to a five-day week at a different office.”
‘In four days we’re being more thorough with our work’
Girling Jones staff take off rotating days of the week, but on Mondays and Fridays, they’re all in the office.
“In four days we’re being more thorough with our work,” she said.
She added that despite fewer clocked hours, employees at Girling Jones have actually been more productive overall in the past few months – and her theory is that it’s because there’s less time to waste.
“If you don’t complete something you need to complete, say on a Tuesday, what’s the point of stressing on Wednesday that you have to do it on Thursday?” she said. “So you finish it on Tuesday so you can enjoy your day off… This isn’t to say that any of us were lazy before, but you definitely get more out of people from the eight-hour day than you would have previously.”
Plus, profits are up. Documents shown to Insider confirm that the company has seen about a 29% increase in profits, after taxes, from last June. While correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation, Blackwell said leaders are pleased the shorter week hasn’t gotten in the way of growth.
In addition to profits and increased productivity, Blackwell also said that she and her employees are getting more out of their free time.
“A lot of people have mentioned that they’ve taken up a new hobby – one of the girls out there is learning to play the piano on her day off.”
Blackwell spends her Wednesdays off doing chores so that she can spend more time with her family on the weekends.
“We do paddle-boarding, we’re kind of active like that,” she said. “If the weather permits, we just get out and about.”
Generational attitudes about work
Blackwell said that when she told her father about Girling Jones’ plan to cut out a day of the work week, he was dubious that it would be effective.
“My parents have this stoicism about them,” she said, saying that her father’s view was that “the more people work, the more they’re deserving of promotions and results.”
Her father worked in sales at an electrical company, and Blackwell said that his mentality was “the more you work, the more you get out of a job.”
But 4 Day Global Week is betting that it’s time for a shift in that sort of thinking.
“A hundred years ago, we moved from working six days a week to five,” the organization says on its website. “And we’re overdue for an update.”