UK workweek trial: World's biggest 4-day labor experiment kicks off

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A pilot program testing the concept of a four-day workweek launched in the U.K. Monday in what is being touted as the world's largest study yet in a growing movement pushing for slashing workers' hours by 20% without cutting their pay.

More than 70 companies employing over 3,300 people will participate in the six-month study, allowing the workers to reduce their weekly hours on the job from 40 to 32 for the same amount of compensation. The employees are being asked to maintain 100% productivity.

Members of staff at the Pressure Drop brewery are taking part in a six-month trial of a four-day working week, touted as the world’s biggest so far. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The nonprofit 4 Day Work Week Global is leading the trial in conjunction with the 4 Day Week Campaign and the think tank Autonomy. It involves researchers from Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College.

One of the companies participating in the pilot is Bookishly, which made the decision to close up shop on Wednesdays to give their staff a free paid day off each week and expressed optimism about the outcome.

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"The pandemic has shown us that we don’t need to post orders out every day to meet our customer’s [sic] needs," the company wrote in a blog post. "People understand that not every company can provide immediate delivery and some things are more important than that."

U.K. company Bookishly is participating in a trial testing a 4-day work week for employees. (Bookishly)

Employees celebrated the move, too. "With a baby on the way, working one day less in a week will make a huge difference in the cost of childcare," said Bookishly designer Gemma Harbour. "I’m confident that my productivity will improve as I focus my tasks around fewer hours in the week."

Joe Connor, pilot program manager for 4 Day Work Week Global, told FOX Business that the New Zealand-based non-profit expects to see similar results to previous studies showing an uptick in wellbeing without a decrease in productivity.

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"Our expectation is that the results are likely to be in line with what most of the data that we’ve seen around the world on this [says], which is that reduced work time can have serious benefits for burnout, stress, and overwork," O’Connor said.  

Shot of a young businesswoman rubbing her eyes while working alongside her colleague in an office at night (iStock / iStock)

"A big factor in this – which maybe wasn't the case two or three years ago – is recruitment and retention," O’Connor continued. "You know, more and more companies are coming to the (four-day) workweek idea who maybe had offered their employees remote working or flexible working or some version of that, and that was a competitive advantage for them. Now it's almost a competitive disadvantage if you don't offer that.

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At the same time as the U.K. study, similar pilots will run in Ireland, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Israel according to 4 Day Work Week Global. Previous studies have been conducted in Spain, New Zealand, Japan and Iceland.

FOX Business' Bradford Betz contributed to this report.

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