British companies urged to trial four-day weeks in August

Nearly two thirds of SMEs are finding it increasingly difficult to retain valued staff in the current economic climate.

British companies are being encouraged to embrace a more relaxed approach to summer by participating in a trial of a four-day workweek throughout the month of August.

Dubbed “4ugust,” the initiative has been launched by the 4 Day Week Campaign in collaboration with Autonomy, a prominent think tank. The aim is to urge companies to adopt a four-day workweek for the entire month, while maintaining employees’ salaries at their current levels. With the addition of a bank holiday in the final week, this would effectively grant workers four extra days off.

The 4 Day Week Campaign advocates for a 32-hour working week. In 2022, it initiated a six-month pilot involving 61 companies with over 3,000 employees. Participants in the trial reported reduced stress levels and burnout, along with fewer sick days taken. Employers witnessed enhancements in staff retention without experiencing any decline in productivity.

Following the pilot, at least 54 out of the 61 companies have continued to implement the four-day workweek a year and a half later.

In the wake of the pandemic, flexible working arrangements have gained traction as a critical consideration for businesses seeking to attract and retain talent. Several companies, such as PwC, Kellogg’s, and Asos, have already introduced reduced summer working hours. Atom, the digital bank, transitioned to a four-day workweek for its staff in November 2021, reducing employees’ weekly hours from 37.5 to 34.

The Manufacturing Technology Centre, an organization dedicated to developing and implementing technology from universities, provides its 800 employees with the option of a four-day workweek. Employees can mutually agree with their team and line manager on their designated 36-hour work schedule.

In late 2023, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs advocated for a pilot scheme involving more than 21,000 employees, ensuring no loss of pay following the successful trial in the private sector.

Will Stronge, Director of Research at Autonomy, views 4ugust as an opportunity for companies to experiment with a four-day workweek on a temporary basis. He stated, “We are witnessing a surge of organizations transitioning to shorter working hours, with many others expressing interest but uncertain about how or when to begin experimenting. This August presents the perfect opportunity for a low-risk mini-pilot.”