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U.K. Companies Launch Largest Trial to Explore Four-Day Workweek

photo of factory workers using drill press

June 7, 2022 -- In the ongoing effort to improve work-life balance, a new program has launched in Britain that aims to answer the question “Can you work just four days a week and still be as productive as you were working five?”

Some 3,300 workers in 70 U.K. companies – in industries including banks, retail, health care and marketing – started a pilot program this week, the largest trial of its kind.

They’ll get all of their pay for working just four days instead of five – in exchange for trying to keep up their productivity, CNN reports.

Even before the pandemic upended work habits around the world, many employees and companies were exploring alternatives to the traditional Monday-through-Friday routine.

Then Covid-19 brought a range of responses, like working from home, setting individual schedules, and trying to operate more efficiently.

A large trial in Iceland found no trop in productivity – along with a sharp improvement in self-reported wellbeing. Experiments have also been launched in other countries, including the U.S., where people want more freedom and flexibility.

“After the pandemic, people want a work-life balance,” Joe Ryle, the campaign director for one of the U.K. initiative’s backers, told the New York Times. “They want to be working less.”

Researcher and author Juliet Schor of Boston College told The Times she wants to see how that extra day off improves “stress and burnout, job and life satisfaction, energy use, travel and many other aspects of life.”

The non-profit organization 4-Day Week, based in New Zealand, says businesses get better talent when they shorten the workweek. And it found that 78 percent of workers are happier and less stressed.

“A hundred years ago, we moved from working six-day weeks to five, and we’re overdue for an update,” the organization says on its website. “Covid-19 made it clear we can find a better balance between work and life. Eighty-five percent of U.S. adults already approve of moving to a four-day week. Let’s make the move together.”

An article in the Harvard Business Review put it like this: “No matter what we do, taking a holistic, long-term focus on the wellbeing of the workforce is the best path to both happiness and prosperity. Maybe the answer is a four-day workweek. Or maybe it’s something else. But we must start with an honest appraisal of how productivity and time trade-offs impact the wellbeing of workers.”

Show Sources

CNN: “The world's biggest four-day work week pilot begins”


The New York Times: “In Britain, a New Test of an Old Dream: The 4-Day Workweek”


4-Day Week


Harvard Business Review: “What Leaders Need to Know Before Trying a 4-Day Work Week”


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