Post on 17 February 2022

Three UK firms sign up to six-month four-day working week trial

A telecoms firm, a video games developer and a training company have become the latest businesses to join a four-day working week trial as scrutiny increases of work/life balance during the pandemic.

Yo Telecom’s 90 employees will move from a 40-hour working week to a four-day, 32-hour working week with no reduction in pay for six months starting in June. They will be accompanied by game developer Hutch, with 120 employees, and MBL Seminars, with 70 employees.

The trial is being run by academics at the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, plus Boston College in the US and thinktank Autonomy. It is being overseen by 4 Day Week Global, a campaign group.

The UK pilot study appears to have gained momentum in recent weeks, with the 10th business on the verge of signing up, with more than 500 workers. Hundreds more businesses have signed up to information sessions, suggesting they are seriously considering testing the move.

Joe Ryle, the director of the 4 Day Week UK campaign, said the trial’s organisers were considering increasing the number of business participants from 30 to 50, given the strong response to the launch of the pilot.

Other businesses have implemented the four-day week of their own accord, including app-based Atom Bank and the Landmark London, a five-star hotel, which this month said it would give chefs an extra day off.

The Landmark decision came in the context of tough competition for staff in the hospitality sector, as companies chase a limited number of workers. Trade unions have said they hope the UK’s low levels of unemployment – at 4.1% of the workforce – will lead to higher pay for workers. A cut in hours for the same amount of pay can equate to much the same thing for many workers, who can pursue other jobs, training or hobbies in the time off.

Ryle said: “In the wake of the great resignation, organisations should embrace the four-day week as a way of retaining staff and attracting new talent.”

Nathan Hanslip, chief executive of Southampton-based Yo Telecom, said he hoped an extra day off would result in healthier staff and better customer service. “I feel the additional day’s rest our team will benefit from will push productivity, increase work satisfaction and improve general wellbeing above and beyond anything we have experienced in the past,” he said.

Shaun Rutland, chief executive and co-founder of Hutch, said he started the business with a “no-crunch” culture that embraced hybrid working – in contrast to some parts of the software and games industries, which are notorious for long hours.

He said he hoped for improvements in productivity and worker health, as well as a boost to gender equality and “a more sustainable work environment”.

Morgan Rigby, chairman of Manchester-based MBL Seminars, said: “Now that we are getting to the other side of the pandemic, the four-day week is back on our corporate agenda. It is exciting, a new dawn for a new era. Whilst it will be a challenge, it is one that we are looking forward to.”

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