Scores of companies across the UK have started the first day of a four-day workweek, which will see staff receive 100% of their pay for only 80% of their time. Over 3,300 workers are taking part in the trial from a diverse range of industries, including banking, care, online retail, IT software training, housing, animation studios, hospitality and many more.

Employees will receive no loss of pay, based on the understanding that they maintain maximum productivity. Billed as the biggest four-day week pilot to take place anywhere in the world, the scheme will run for six months and is being led by 4 Day Week Global—a nonprofit group—in partnership with Autonomy, the 4 Day Week Campaign, and researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College. Investigators will then work with each participating firm to measure the levels of productivity and the mental wellbeing of its employees, as well as the impact on the environment and gender equality.

Juliet Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College and lead researcher on the pilot, said: “The four-day week is generally considered to be a triple dividend policy—helping employees, companies, and the climate—[and] our research efforts will be digging into all of this.”

Joe O’Connor, chief executive of 4 Day Week Global, said Britain was at “the crest of a wave of global momentum behind the four-day week”, as people got used to working from home.

Ed Siegel, CEO of Charity Bank, who are participating in the pilot, described the decision to adopt the four-day week as a “natural next step” following the pandemic. “The 20th-century concept of a five-day working week is no longer the best fit for 21st-century business,” he said. “We firmly believe that a four-day week with no change to salary or benefits will create a happier workforce and will have an equally positive impact on business productivity, customer experience and our social mission.”

Countries including Iceland and New Zealand have already taken part in similar trials, while Microsoft Japan saw a 40 percent increase in staff productivity after implementing its own four-day week back in 2019. Government-backed four-day week experiments are also set to launch later this year in Spain and Scotland.