The largest “4-day work day” experiment in history is here, but it can’t beat 996

Good news, it's Friday!

But how short the good is, the hopeful Friday night is fleeting, the vibrant Saturday wind blows away, the Sunday afternoon hits "anxiety" on time, and hopefully Monday will never come.

▲ Picture from: "Men's Love"

There are people in the world who only need to work 4 days. I don't know if Sunday was less painful for them.

After Iceland, "one of the happiest countries in the world", more and more countries support the 4-day work week.

On June 6, the world's largest "four-day work day" trial kicked off in the UK for six months, with more than 70 companies and more than 3,300 employees participating.

Wages and workload remain unchanged, not based on the number of days

The trial was organized by the non-profit 4 Day Week Global and conducted in collaboration with researchers from the UK think tank Autonomy, the University of Cambridge, Boston College and the University of Oxford.

More than 70 companies, from local companies to large corporations, in every field, including food and beverage, technology, finance, digital marketing, construction, medical services, animation studios and more.

▲ Some pilot companies. Image from: Quartz

The most worrying thing, of course, is whether wages have dropped.

The experiment uses the "100:80:100" model : employees receive 100% of their salary, work 80% of their original hours, and maintain 100% of their output.

The good news is that wages haven't changed, the bad news is that workloads haven't changed, and productivity is the key.

▲ Picture from: "Life Cutting Technique"

Ed Siegel, CEO of Charity Bank, which participated in the trial, said:

The 20th century concept of a five-day work week is no longer suitable for 21st century businesses. We strongly believe that a four-day work week, with no change in wages or benefits, will create a happier workforce and have an equally positive impact on business productivity, customer experience, and social mission.

In other words, an extra day off for employees not only means increased productivity, but may also generate more social benefits.

Think tanks and universities will work with each business to measure the impact of the four-day workday on corporate productivity and employee well-being, as well as on social issues such as the climate crisis, energy consumption, gender equality, public transport, and healthcare.

▲ Picture from: "Who"

Remember the initiator "4 Day Week Global"? The name carries a sense of mission to promote the four-day working system to the world.

It is led by Andrew Barnes, founder of New Zealand trust and estate planning firm Perpetual Guardian. Andrew Barnes started with his own company and tested the waters for a four-day workday.

In 2018, Perpetual Guardian ran an 8-week pilot involving 240 employees. An employee works 30 hours, provides the same output as a standard week, and is paid for 37.5 hours.

According to the survey , 78% of employees believe they can successfully balance work and life, up from 54%; employees’ stress levels have dropped by 7%; motivation, commitment and empowerment at work have also improved significantly, and overall life satisfaction increased by 5%.

▲ Picture from: euronews

It is worth mentioning that employee motivation has also increased, from automating manual processes to reducing Internet fishing.

Since then, Andrew Barnes has advocated for more companies to make changes, and co-founded 4 Day Week Global.

At the same time as the official announcement of the UK trial, 4 Day Week Global mentioned that similar trials, supported by the government, will be carried out in Spain and Scotland later this year.

▲ Picture from: "Life Cutting Technique"

Recently, there is another news related to working hours in the UK.

The Financial Times reported that TikTok's radical entrepreneurial spirit was "unacceptable" in the UK, causing employees to leave.

Members of the TikTok e-commerce team in London mentioned that working hours are often more than 12 hours a day, and working into the early hours and during holidays is seen as a role model.

Both are called four-day workdays, but they look different

It's not just 4 Day Week Global promoting the four-day workweek.

The four-day workweek is found all over the world, but for different patterns and reasons.

On August 1, 2008, Utah launched the nation's first one-year "four-day workday" trial, aimed at saving energy costs and transportation costs for employees. The working week remains at 40 hours, ie 10 hours a day, and wages are not affected.

▲ Iceland. Image from: Unsplash

From 2015 to 2019, Iceland conducted two large-scale four-day work trials involving 2,500 employees, reducing workweeks from five days of 40 hours to four days of 35 or 36 hours , with wages remaining the same, covering More than 100 types of workplaces, including hospitals, offices, kindergartens, and social service agencies, ended up being "overwhelmingly successful."

In August 2019, Microsoft Japan held a one-month "Work-Life Choice Challenge" , and Friday was set as a "paid special leave", which means working for 4 days with the same salary. It found that sales had increased by nearly 40%, employee happiness had increased, and electricity consumption and paper printing had decreased.

But this is just a "summer limited" that can't be traced back. In the "Work-Life Choice Challenge" in the winter of 2019 , Microsoft no longer actively set paid special leave, but instead called on employees to continue to use internal tools to improve their work styles, and combine paid leave to "choose rest smarter".

▲ Picture from: DW

It is also Japan. In June 2021, the Japanese government included the "four-day work system" into its annual economic policy guidelines , which will play a role in advising companies on the bright side.

The government said that by working four days a week, companies would retain competent and experienced staff and more would have the opportunity to gain additional education or part-time jobs.

More importantly, an extra day off a week can encourage consumption and boost the economy. Young people may have more time to meet, marry and have children, alleviating growing problems such as declining birth rates and an aging population.

Japanese companies adopting the four-day workweek have different approaches . Fast Retailing Group, the parent company of Uniqlo, works 40 hours in 4 days, with the same working hours and wages, while Mizuho Bank reduces both working hours and wages, and works 32 hours in 4 days, with wages reduced to 80%.

▲ Picture from: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

In March 2021, Spain approved a trial of the "four-day workweek" , with 32 hours of work 4 days a week, and wages remained unchanged , mainly to save the rising unemployment and economic recession caused by the epidemic, and to promote the purchase of goods and services. Consumption.

In February of this year, Belgium launched a 40-hour work program in 4 days , with a similar purpose to Spain; Germany, Sweden, Canada and other countries also have related attempts or proposals.

At present, there are roughly three modes of the four-day work system:

Daily working hours are extended, weekly working hours remain unchanged, and wages remain unchanged;

The daily working hours are unchanged, the weekly working hours are shortened, and the wages are reduced accordingly;

The daily working hours remain the same, the weekly working hours are shortened, and the wages remain the same.

The total hours worked for the first type did not change, while the total hours worked and wages for the second type decreased in tandem.

The third seems to be the most ideal, but it is not necessarily stable, and it is based on the premise of improving productivity. "Employees must meet or exceed performance expectations" is the consensus of bosses. After all, they must not only win employees, but also satisfy shareholders.

▲ Picture from: KYODO

A recent survey in the US found that 92% of working adults said they would prefer to work 4 days, 10 hours a week rather than 5 days and 8 hours a week, which is the first four-day workweek.

In addition, since 2020, the introduction of the four-day work system has been much faster, which is an aspect of the impact of the epidemic on the labor market. As mentioned above, the four-day workweek may be a way to boost the economy, boost consumption, and increase employment.

Looking back at the development of the five-day workday, it does not seem to be much different.

In 1932, the United States officially adopted the five-day work system to deal with the unemployment problem caused by the Great Depression ; in 1933, the five-day work system appeared in the United Kingdom. .

Working only 4 days may not be ideal

The current four-day working system is still quite controversial.

Its advantages are obvious.

For employees, improve work efficiency, improve work-life balance, have more time to learn skills or work part-time ; for companies, improve employee productivity, prevent employees from resigning, attract more talents, reduce office space costs…

But disadvantages are also inevitable.

▲ Picture from: "We Can't Be Beasts"

First of all, for employees, pay may be lower, employees who work four days and five days may be treated unequally, and it is very important that the four-day work system is not suitable for all employees, such as those who rely on hourly wages to support their families. low-wage workers.

In Perpetual Guardian's trial, where a small number of employees preferred to return to a five-day week, the original vision was defeated by details.

Friction at work has increased to some extent due to increased workload, shorter meeting times, and shorter mealtimes. The company did not have additional resources to help employees adjust to the new work rhythm, resulting in "increased urgency and stress" when employees completed five days of work in four days, and were more exhausted than usual on rest days.

▲ Picture from: Reuters/Hannah Mckay

Secondly, the company also faces risks, such as losing the trust of customers and investors, investing more labor costs, especially the small and medium-sized enterprises that have been hit hard by the epidemic and the industry is sluggish, it will be more difficult to sustain.

Therefore, it is difficult to implement the four-day work system. It needs to redesign work tasks and even change the entire work structure. Both management and grass-roots employees should participate in the design and implementation of the new work mode.

For example, a four-day working system does not necessarily mean that you have to rest on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Australian company Versa has turned rest days into Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays , with a mini-holiday every two days of work; New Zealand trust services company Guardian Trust arranges different “rest days” for employees, similar to a shift system, to ensure that customers are Monday to Friday will not eat closed doors.

▲ Picture from: Unsplash

For another example, the four-day work system emphasizes productivity more than the conventional nine-to-five, at least not lower than the original. Therefore, it is necessary for employees to formulate personal plans and management to formulate standards for measuring productivity.

Mark Jephson, general manager of the Guardian Trust's trust business, said: "There is some excess capacity in every workplace, and at certain times of the working day, we are not as productive as they should be."

But Ryan Greenaway-McGrevy, a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Auckland, sings the opposite: "The four-day workweek certainly improves employee productivity – provided it doesn't become the norm."

If only measured by productivity, the idea is still "work-based". In addition to having to improve work efficiency, can the four-day workday really bring us happiness?

Since the epidemic, we have adapted to more flexible working methods such as working from home and telecommuting, but we are often overworked and have no boundaries between work and life.

▲ Picture from: "Men's Love"

Work is not determined by the hours clocked in and out, and longer breaks don’t mean more free time at your disposal. Could the four-day workday allow us to not process work information on our off days?

Right now, even one of the pioneering experiments with the four-day workday has one: "I can still go to work or handle phone calls/emails for short periods of time if I need to."

So, the four-day workday is not a panacea in reality, but it represents an ideal—creating better workplaces, communities and societies.

Before the advent of the four-day workday, the strict implementation of the system of 8 hours a day, 5 days of work, and having a full weekend may be a more realistic wish now.

Li Ruoqiushuang, to exorcise evil. Working email: [email protected]

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