At the start of June, workers at 70 companies all over the UK – from chippies to tech companies – started working a four-day work in a trial that will run for six months. Could a four-day working week hold the answer to that elusive work/life balance we're all seeking?
The main benefit will be a boost to mental health, according to Joe Ryle from the 4 Day Week campaign, who want to get the government on board to back a four-day week for everyone – "less stress, no more feeling overworked," he says. And Ryle believes it could work for all industries. "There's a real range of sectors involved in the trial, so it totally shows it's possible in many different workplaces."
"We have the longest full-time working hours compared to any other country in Europe – except for Greece," continues Ryle. "And yet we're also the least productive." And Ryle explains that our current five-day week with a two-day weekend model is actually 100 years old. "We're long overdue an update," he says.
We caught up with two of the women involved in the trial to find out how they're getting on...
Kirsty Wainright, lives on the Norfolk Coast and is the general manager at Plattens fish and chip shop
"I started working at Plattens three months ago and I have worked a four-day week since I started. In fact, it's one of the main reasons I took this job – who wouldn't want three days off? It's great, probably better than I imagined it would be."
"We work on a two-day on, two-day off rotation throughout the year – essentially we get a weekend every two days. This means I have so much more time to see my friends, spend time with family, or even spend a day catching up with house work and life admin so I can still enjoy a full two days off doing whatever I like.
"We work really productively, we've split our teams into two for each shift – half start early and finish early, and the other start later and finish later. The team work harder to ensure they can finish on time, being more productive and proactive to do so.
"It's had such a positive impact on my life. I feel like I work part-time to be honest, even though technically I don't. The team have appreciated having a morning to see the dentist or do a food shop or finish early to walk the dog in the evening. Three days off means they have more time for themselves – we're all in a better mood all the time!
"I think every industry would need to find a way of it working for them, however I’m a strong believer that every employer within the hospitality industry could have the opportunity to adopt this trial into their own working environments. As long as employers are willing to trust their staff and give them the opportunity, the potential is endless."
Jo Burns-Russell, lives in Northampton and is managing director of marketing agency Amplitude
"We’re just entering our second week as part of the official trial which launched on 1 June. I was definitely apprehensive about the concept at first. We’re a fast growing company, so I was worried about managing our workload.
"So far the feedback from the staff has been great. I think our managers have been a little more stressed as we work to find the balance, but its very early days so I’m confident that this will get better once the workflows are established.
"We feel confident we’ll still get the work done. It's a cliché but this really is about working smarter, not harder. We work in the creative media sector, so our clients come to us for our creative thinking, and in my mind this will only be better with a team that has time to do their own thing too. Most of our staff already have side projects lined up.
"We’re already feeling the benefits, just having that extra time for ‘life stuff’ is making me feel less stressed and rushed all the time. But it's going to take conscious effort too – I’m one of those people who does a million things, sometimes at the detriment of my health and wellbeing – I’m trying to use the time mindfully and not just keep filling every second with work. It's a real culture shift that's needed, modern working tells us we need to be busy all the time, but actually, how much of that busyness is stuff you need to do over stuff you feel guilted into by our current work culture?
"At the moment, we're staggering our days so half the team take a Wednesday off and half Friday. Change isn’t always easy, but I hope that we can lead by example and show that you can put people first and still be a profitable company, life shouldn’t be all work no play and that shines through in everything we do at Amplitude. I’m proud of us all for taking the plunge."
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