Thousands of UK workers start world's biggest trial of four-day work week

Business Insights

40% of Brits believe working in a traditional office environment with normal hours hinders their performance

Chris Biggs, Partner at Theta Global Advisors, discusses the importance of providing employees with a healthy work-life balance

  • 57% of Brits say they do not want the 'normal' way of working in a traditional office environment with normal office hours
  • 40% of Brits believe working in a traditional office environment with regular working hours would hinder their performance
  • 24% of Brits say that their employer hasn't explored any flexible working options with them
  • 41% of people are likely to consider leaving their jobs within the next year

The world's largest trial of a four-day work week has begun and will continue for six months. The pilot is being trialled by 3,300 workers across 70 UK companies, and is based on the 100:80:100 model - 100% of the pay for 80% of the time, in exchange for a commitment to maintain 100% of the productivity. This comes at a time when the UK labour market is navigating an acute stage of flux, as a landmark study by Theta Global Advisors unveiled that more than half (57%) of Brits do not want to work in a traditional office environment, five days a week and putting in regular hours.

Furthermore, vacancies in the UK job market are at their highest point ever with redundancies at their lowest since the 90s, meaning there is a critical need for companies to retain staff. One key way of achieving this is by offering flexible and forward-thinking working arrangements, with research showing that 40% of Brits believe working traditional hours in an office environment would hinder their performance. Not only that, but a staggering 41% of respondents even stated they are likely to consider leaving their jobs in the next year – clearly illustrating the retention challenges companies are currently facing.

This shared sentiment is forcing companies to trial and adapt new working conditions to suit their employees, with thousands of UK workers preparing to test a four-day working week in the biggest pilot scheme to happen anywhere in the world. The scheme comes after workers and companies were forced to re-examine their working patterns post-pandemic with a substantial rise in hybrid and flexible working hours.

However, big companies such as Deloitte and Goldman Sachs have been reluctant to fully adopt flexible work environments due to the fear of lowered productivity, until just recently. This was echoed in Theta’s research which found that for 24% of Brits, their employers haven’t explored any flexible working options to help improve their work-life balance. Goldman Sachs have been in conversations about making changes in this area for almost a year after a leaked report disclosed abusive working conditions among junior bankers, who were working averages as high as 105 hours a week. They have now implemented their own 'flexible vacation' scheme, mandating staff at all levels to take at least 15 days of vacation starting 1 May.

Chris Biggs, partner at consultancy and accounting disruptor Theta Global Advisors comments:

"The decision to trial the four-day week marks the biggest shift we’ve ever seen towards achieving a better work-life balance across the country. It will be incredibly interesting to see what the results of the pilot are – but I expect that they’ll be positive and illustrate that there is real sense in this as a concept.

“As conversation spreads around the scheme, it will also put pressure on employers to go further in their flexible working offerings. The spotlight is already on this topic with companies now facing real issues in terms of recruiting and retaining staff as a result of there being more job vacancies in the market than ever before. /p>

"The option of having a flexible work schedule has become fundamental for post-pandemic workers. But the big companies have only just begun to offer these benefits to their employees, holding off for so long because of the fear of decreased productivity and therefore a loss in profits.

"At Theta Global Advisors we realise the importance of a reasonable work-life balance and how important flexibility is for workers. We find that this can increase productivity and provide workers with a working environment which they are happy with. The big companies are in a dangerous position where they need to change or could face a mass exodus of talent."