Charities consider permanent four-day week switch after trial ‘success’

21 Feb 2023 News

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Charities that took part in the world’s largest four-day week trial have said they are now considering making the change to working patterns permanent.

The initiative, which was piloted in the UK between June and December 2022 by 61 organisations with around 2,900 workers, published its results today

Around seven charities piloted the scheme, whereby employees received 100% of their pay for 80% of their usual hours and a commitment to deliver 100% of their normal productivity. 

Three charities said the trial was a positive experience and they were considering permanently switching to a four-day working week but some warned that it was not easy to change working habits.

Pilot has been a ‘positive experience’

Debt Justice, Waterwise, Stemettes and Scotland’s International Development Alliance all told Civil Society News they were considering switching to a permanent four-day working week after taking part in the trial last year, while another had already confirmed it was extending the offer to staff.

Frances Guy, chief executive officer of Scotland’s International Development Alliance, said: “The alliance was very happy to have had the opportunity to participate in the global four-day week trial.

“This allowed us to benefit from mentoring and learning from other participating organisations whilst implementing the challenge of improving efficiency by 20%. The target of a four-day week is to reduce working hours by being more efficient and that was the real eye opener. 

“The pilot has been a positive experience, with staff reporting improved personal wellbeing and decreased stress. We’re pleased as a member organisation to have demonstrated that it is possible to maintain results on reduced hours and hope our members will benefit from our experience. We would be happy to share our learnings with other interested organisations.”

Heidi Chow, executive director of Debt Justice, said: “We campaign to end debt-related poverty and inequality and so we took part in the pilot to reflect our values and model the changes that are needed for a fairer, wellbeing-based economy.

“Our staff have been working shorter hours and we have seen no drop in the outcomes we are committed to delivering and instead staff are feeling more rested, energised and productive.”

Anne-Marie Imafidon, co-founder of Stemettes, said the social enterprise has been “on a journey to become a role model employer for more than a year now”.

“We have always had the ambition to be progressive with our working hours and working practices. We joined the trial to boost our employees’ wellbeing and ensure that we could give our staff space to flourish. The benefits have been immense — improved efficiencies, more autonomy for our staff and a focus on outcomes rather than just outputs.”

‘It didn’t happen magically’

Nicci Russell, managing director of Waterwise, called the trial a “fantastic innovation” but added that it did not “happen magically”.

“You have to actively work at it and really change how you do things, and we all have. We extended our trial beyond the official six months into a full year, and will decide in the summer whether to continue permanently. The trial has been a fantastic success for us at Waterwise though, in terms of wellbeing and outputs and impact.

“I’ve spoken to so many leaders who are keen to try it, and this report will give them a lot of the evidence they need to be brave and launch their own trial – the UK trial gave me that confidence, and it has paid off.”

Meanwhile, the Royal Society of Biology (RSB) previously told Civil Society News its trustees had agreed to “continue this flexible working offer into 2023, with an annual review”.

Most other organisations to continue four-day week

Some 56 of the 61 organisations that completed the pilot across the UK said they would continue with a four-day week, with only five opting to extend their trials of shorting hours or pausing it for the time being.

Overall, participants rated their experience an 8.3 out of 10 while business performance and productivity both scored an average of 7.5 on two different scales.

Revenues increased by 35% on average (weighted by organisation size across 24 respondents) when compared with a similar period from previous years. Meanwhile, staff turnover levels declined by 57%.

The results also showed that nine in 10 employees would “definitely want to continue” on a four-day week while over half saw an increase in their ability at work. 

On employees’ health and wellbeing, 71% said they had lower burnout levels by the end of the trial, 43% reported better mental health and 46% said they felt less fatigued.  

Most workers said they had “greater satisfaction with their time”, with six in 10 being more able to combine paid work with care responsibilities.  

The latest cohort of participants, combined with the previous one from Ireland, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, brings to a total of 91 organisations and around 3,500 workers completing the pilot over the past year.

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