Work less to work better: this is the idea behind a great experiment launched on Monday 6 June in Great Britain. Thousands of employees of seventy companies of different sizes and in different sectors will work four days a week, while maintaining the same salary, to test the effect on productivity. The pilot project, organized by thinktank Autonomy and the NGO 4 Day Week Global, will last for six months and will be monitored by experts from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and Boston College in the United States. In exchange for 100% of the salary, the 3,300 workers involved undertake to maintain 100% productivity while working 80% of the scheduled hours.
Who joined the project
Employers, who have decided to participate voluntarily in the pilot project, range from software companies to law firms, from marketing companies to construction companies and from large banks to small shops or restaurants. Workers will be monitored to verify the impact of new work patterns on their health and quality of life, while the quality and quantity of their work will be checked to determine if they are unchanged, or even improved, compared to the traditional five-day week. The expectation is that working fewer days could result in a ‘triple dividend’, benefiting workers who would have more enthusiasm and more energy, businesses that would have a more productive and more motivated workforce and also the environment, reducing commuting. .
A different idea of quality of life
“In this historical experiment we will analyze how employees react to having an extra day of vacation, the effects on stress, satisfaction, health, sleep, energy, concentration and many other aspects”, explained Juliet Schor. Professor of Sociology at Boston College and leader of the experts who will monitor the pilot project. The organizers of the experiment are convinced that the pandemic has forever changed the pace of work and the perception of work itself. Long lockdown periods working from home have shown that it is possible to be productive and creative in difficult situations and have led to a rethinking of the work structure. For some, the five-day workweek is a twentieth-century legacy that needs to be rethought. “Workers came out of the pandemic with a very different idea of quality of life,” said Joe O’Connor, leader of 4 Day Week Global. “More and more companies realize that working part-time but focused on the objectives to be achieved is the best way to have a competitive advantage”.
The Labor Experiment
The idea of the four-day week was born before Covid in Great Britain: in 2019, ahead of the elections, the opposition Labor party had committed to introducing it within ten years. The Conservatives led by Boris Johnson had swept away and Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn had been forced to resign. The inspiration came from a first experiment conducted in 2015 and 2016 in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, involving 2,500 workers who worked for four days instead of five. The outcome was an “overwhelming success,” according to organizers, who found a reduction in workers’ stress levels with no negative impact on productivity. Since then, 86% of Icelandic workers have opted for the short week. The pilot project launched yesterday in Great Britain is the largest and most comprehensive ever conducted, but it will not be the only one. Similar experiments will be conducted later this year in Spain, Ireland, USA, Australia and New Zealand, with the support of their respective governments.