The results of the four-day work week trial carried out in the United Kingdom between June and December 2022 were published last February. According to 4 Day Week Global, the organization coordinating the experiment, 56 of the 61 participating companies were as satisfied who decided to extend this schedule beyond the end of the test. Of those 56, 18 have adopted the 32-hour week permanently.
The trial, in which around 2,900 workers participated, was a success in general terms. However, some companies that took part in the test experienced some problems, which caused certain firms to drop out of the test.
From said to fact. The four-day week is based on the 100-80-100 principle: do 100% of the work, in 80% of the time, and for 100% of the salary. However, this concept is not always easy to apply. In the case of Allcap Limited, a hardware store located in the English city of Gloucester that participated in the 4 Day Week Global trial, there was an overload of work, as recently reported by the BBC.
If it is not applied well, stress increases. In conversations with the British media, Mark Roderick, administrator of the company, affirmed that the reduction of one day less caused the rest of the days of the week to be “extreme”. In this sense, Laura White, principal investigator of Waterwise, an organization specialized in aquatic conservation, affirmed that “without a fifth day to catch up on work, there is more stress during the week to be able to have a longer weekend.”
More organization. The solution, as pointed out by Pedro Gomes, a professor at Birkbeck University of London and coordinator of the four-day work week trial to be held this year in Portugal, is to adopt a high level of organisation.
Lack of staff. However, the rotation system established at Allcap among the 40 professionals on the staff was not enough to reduce the volume of work overload. According to Roderick, this was due to the fact that the squad was short. Finally, and despite the fact that most of the employees wanted to continue with the experiment, Allcap abandoned the test after two months of testing.
More investment. At the same time, the charity Citizens Advice also detected problems during the test. Alisson Dunn, CEO of the association, told the BBC that an investment equivalent to the hiring of three new employees was necessary so that the 45 workers of the ‘call center’ in Gateshead could participate in the 4 Day Work Week experiment.
Problems due to the activity itself. In addition, Dunn reported other problems involving the call-line arm of Citizens Advice. In the first place, the impossibility of eventually working longer to comply with the weekly service agreed with the donors. Secondly, the structure of the demand itself: “The busiest days are normally Mondays and Fridays (…) There are only three days off for the staff to choose an extra day off”.
If there is margin, there are good results. On the other hand, the CEO of Citizens Advice recognized that in those branches of the organization in which professionals have greater flexibility when carrying out their work, they have exceeded the performance and income forecasts.
Or nobody. Given the situation, Citizens Advice decided to extend the four-day week trial until May. Of course, if there is no homogeneity in the results of all branches, Dunn assured that the new schedule will not be established: “I cannot imagine that we allow some professionals to work four days and not others,” he stated in statements to the BBC.
Alternatives. On the other hand, there are alternatives to reduce working time per week without compromising the activity of certain firms. In this sense, the creative agency Amplitude reduced the schedule to 35 hours a week and gave its professionals a choice of two options: work approximately nine hours for four days or work five days for 7 hours. According to Jo Burns-Russel, CEO of the twelve-person firm, this plan paid off.
A good preparation. All these experiences show that the application of the four-day work week, without a salary cut, requires a high level of organization and communication in order to succeed. In this sense, Pedro Gomes, the coordinator of the test to be carried out this year in Portugal, stated that ‘SMEs’ are better prepared than large companies to carry out this change.
Increase competitiveness. In fact, for many small firms it can be a competitive advantage: this is the idea on which the test announced in December 2022 by the Ministry of Industry is based.
Work better, not more. Finally, both the companies that establish a four-day week and those that reduce the working day by five days have something in common: the desire to reduce working time per week. It seems that for many companies, as well as their employees, working longer hours is not synonymous with working better.
Imagen: LYCS Architecture / Unsplash
In Xataka | “A true win-win”: what the companies and workers who have adopted the four-day week think.
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