Work Less, Live More: Why A Four-day Week Is Overdue
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Work Less, Live More: Why A Four-day Week Is Overdue

Carmela De Simone February 11, 2022

Employers are finally addressing work-life imbalance in the UK to improve staff wellbeing with the prospect of a four-day week.

Since the 2020 pandemic, globally, we have seen a shift towards flexible working. Businesses and their employees had to adapt rapidly in response to the outbreak. Remote working became a considerable lifeline for many office-based roles during this time.   

Despite this, Boris Johnson announced a U-turn in Covid-19 restrictions in January, aiming to promote living with the virus. Significantly, some might say conveniently, after the high-profile ‘partygate’ scandal, the work-from-home mantra that was instilled in us since March 2020 was dropped suddenly last month, as well as compulsory use of face masks.

After pandering to policies largely criticised as vague and inconsistent from the PM throughout the global pandemic, the workforce demands remuneration for the long-endured adversity felt across all sectors.

Positive signs

Pilot-schemes to reduce the standard 40-hour working week to a four-day, 32-hour week are being rolled out this year amid growing interest from companies and thinktanks. The June pilot, run by Cambridge and Oxford academics, will reduce working hours by a fifth with no loss of pay.

The idea of the four-day work week isn’t new. In 2019, Microsoft piloted the scheme in Japan, which saw a 40% increase in productivity. Pursuit marketing in Glasgow introduced the four-day week in 2016, with productivity increasing by 30% since its introduction.

Morrisons and Unilever- who produce goods such as Dove soap and Magnum ice cream- are among companies joining the trend. The latter has introduced a four-day week in certain branches.

Digital bank Monzo announced plans to allow three months’ paid leave this week. Staff will be eligible after having worked for the company for four years. This is in addition to the one-month paid sabbatical current staff already benefit from.

Work to live

Four-day week is a campaign which aims to create a society ‘where we work to live, rather than live to work’. The campaign claims the current work week is ‘outdated’ and ‘no longer fit for purpose’, and states changes to the archaic structure would benefit workers, employers, society, the economy and environment.

Benefits to employers they have identified are increased productivity, higher performance and staff retention. The campaign claims “Briton’s are less productive than their European neighbours despite longer working hours” and a shorter week could redistribute available remaining work to those who need it most.

The five-day 40-hour work-week has been the standard for 50 years. So much else has evolved since then. Why has this remained the same?

Read next: How to make your weekly food budget stretch

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I am a journalism graduate from Brunel University. My background is in property lettings and the motor industry. I’m obsessed with all things health & beauty, travel, music and Turkish food. You will most often find me drinking vodka lime sodas and watching Shrek.