The 4-day week widely tested in the UK

“My first idea was to volunteer, then I thought I could do something else, learn a new skill,” such as particle physics, explains Louis Bloomsfield, who also plans to spend more time with his family.

“There are so many things you can do with an extra day,” the 36-year-old brewer enthuses as he inspects barrels of beer.

The North London brewery where he works, Pressure Drop, will participate in a massive test from June, involving 3,000 employees across 60 companies and working a four-day week.

This trial, touted as the largest ever conducted in the world, aims to help companies reduce working hours without cutting wages or slowing operations.

Similar trials have taken place in Spain, Iceland, the United States and Canada and should begin in Australia or New Zealand in August.

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, program director at 4 Day Week Global, which is organizing the trials, says the six-month trial in the UK will have the benefit of giving companies more time to experiment and collect data.

Adaptation should be easier for SMEs, which can make big changes faster, he told AFP.

Pressure Drop aims to improve employee wellbeing while reducing the company’s environmental footprint.

The Royal Society of Biology, which is also participating in the trial, says it wants to give employees “more autonomy”.

Like Pressure Drop, she hopes a shorter workweek can attract new workers and above all help keep the best, in a particularly tight UK job market.

The unemployment rate is the lowest in nearly 50 years at 3.7% and the number of job openings reached a record 1.3 million.

– Not so pink –

Brewery founder Sam Smith admits it would be a challenge to stay closed three days a week because “we have to be open all the time, but we’ll look into that during the trial.”

He plans to give employees several days off and work two shifts in order to work continuously.

A shorter workweek is easier to implement in the service sector, which accounts for 80% of the UK economy.

But for retail, food and beverage, it’s more complicated, says Jonathan Boys, an economist at the Personal Development Institute, an association of human resources professionals.

The key to the trial’s success, he says, will therefore be to measure productivity, especially in a service economy where much of the work is less measurable than a factory’s output.

“If you go from five to four days, you lose a day of work, and therefore production. So the real question is: (…) will an increase in productivity compensate for this day that was lost? (… ) If not, it will be very difficult for us to sustain the four-day week without sacrificing growth.”

But for Aidan Harper, co-author of a book promoting four-day work hours (“The Case for a Four Day Week”), countries that work less have higher productivity.

“Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands work less than the UK and have high productivity,” he told AFP.

Conversely, he adds that Greece is one of the countries in Europe with the longest working hours for low productivity.

For Phil McParlane, founder of recruiting firm 4dayweek.io, a shorter workweek is a winning option for businesses and employees alike. He even speaks of a ‘hiring superpower’.

The recruitment agency specializing in flexible working and four-day jobs says the number of companies seeking to hire through its platform has quadrupled in the past two years, reflecting the rise of hybrid work and the quest for a better quality of life after two years. pandemic.

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