Around 70 companies will begin a trial of a four-day week today (6 June) in what is thought to be the biggest pilot of its kind.
The trial will last for six months and is led by 4 Day Week Global, a group campaigning for a shorter working week with no loss of wages.
It will be monitored by academics from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, alongside the think tank Autonomy and Boston College in the US.
A range of employers, including a chip shop in Norfolk, Sheffield software company Rivelin Robotics and Charity Bank in Tonbridge, Kent, have pledged to pay workers 100% for 80% of the time, as long as workers commit to 100% productivity.
Joe O’Connor, chief executive of 4 Day Week Global, said: “As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are recognising that the new frontier for competition is quality of life, and that reduced-hour, output-focused working is the vehicle to give them a competitive edge.”
Spain and Scotland are also set to begin trials into four-day week working later this year.
Ed Siegel, chief executive of Charity Bank, said his organisation had long been a champion of flexible working, “but the pandemic really moved the goalposts in this regard. For Charity Bank, the move to a four-day week seems a natural next step.”
“The 20th-century concept of a five-day working week is no longer the best fit for 21st-century business,” he added. “We firmly believe that a four-day week with no change to salary or benefits will create a happier workforce and will have an equally positive impact on business productivity, customer experience and our social mission.”
Research by HR software company Factorial last year identified the four-day week as the most desirable employee benefit.
Molly Johnson-Jones, founder of flexible working consultancy Flexa Careers, said: “This comes just as the debate between advocates for traditional ways of working and staff rebelling against office returns is really heating up, meaning the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
“In the same way that presenteeism doesn’t equate to productivity (despite what some politicians and business leaders would have us believe), nor do working very specific, fixed hours have a positive bearing on output. The trial should prove this unequivocally and put this debate to bed.”
Not all employers are a fan of new working patterns, however. Last week Tesla owner Elon Musk told workers that “remote work is no longer acceptable”, demanding that employees return to offices for a minimum of 40 hours per week or depart the company.