Three people sitting at a desk with their laptops laughing

Everything we know about the UK’s four-day work week trial

There have been whisperings about a four-day work week trial in the UK since countries like Iceland pioneered the idea as early as 2015. But in early April, the suspicions were confirmed via outlets like the BBC – the UK will now hold a four-day work week trial between the months of June and December this year (2022).

Here’s everything we know so far…

What is the purpose of the four-day work week trial?

The purpose of the trial is to collate evidence surrounding the effects a four-day work week would have on productivity, across businesses of different sizes within the UK.

The research has been encouraged by the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. With home and hybrid working now more common than ever, more UK companies are examining ways of working that defy the traditional nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday working week.

Some companies are adopting their own four-day work week trials as a response to the competitive labour market. Employers who focus on outputs as opposed to hours of work may be seen as more innovative – a key attraction that’s valued by new employees and current staff alike.

Who is running it?

The trial is being run by academics at the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Boston College in the United States in partnership with 4 Day Week Global – a campaign group – The 4 Day Week UK Campaign and the Autonomy Thinktank.

Who is taking part?

Over 3,000 employees from different businesses, of different sizes and in different parts of the UK will take part. They will work 32 hours per week, as opposed to the standard 40. The crucial point to note is that they will receive no reduction in pay whatsoever, even though their hours have decreased by 8 hours (one standard working day) per week.

How will the trial be determined as successful?

The exact KPIs and metrics are to be decided in May, according to the 4 Day Work Week trial website, but the trial will measure productivity of each workforce as well as employee mental health and physical health.

Whilst we don’t know the exact signifiers of success just yet, we can presume that productivity remaining the same or better than five-day work week levels will be a key determiner of success, as well as improved employee health and wellbeing!

What happens if the trial is successful?

Companies in Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales can all currently move their workforce to four-day working weeks if they choose to. The aim of research such as this is two-fold. Firstly, UK companies can trial this way of working to check if it works for their business, before committing to permanent change. Secondly, ongoing research such as this begins to form a case for more prescriptive advice from the government around four-day weeks. 

There are already existing petitions to the government asking to enforce a four-day work week to help the country hit its Net Zero Carbon targets, and petitions for a four-day work week to better the country’s physical and mental health. We know that knowledge is power, so trials like these allow experts to better understand just how it affects both companies and the people who work for them.

It's a very interesting time for businesses and employees, after the last couple of years have made many of us rethink what is most important. Who knows – maybe we’ll all be taking advantage of the four-day work week in the next few years?