The effects on employees taking part in a four day work week trial must be observed carefully, companies tell HRreview.

The study is being led by Oxford and Cambridge universities, as well as the not-for-profit campaigning group 4 Day Week Global, and the think-tank Autonomy. 

Firms interested in the pilot have told HRreview that those taking part need to ensure they were not relying on a three day weekend to improve employee wellbeing. Instead, they say firms should help maintain staff wellbeing throughout the week.

Research suggests a fifth of British workers would quit their jobs if not offered a four day week in 2022, bolstered a host of studies that show employees are prioritising wellbeing over finances. 

Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage welcomed the trial saying the five day week is out-dated: “With a cut down in working time, we’d not only have more time to decompress and hopefully tackle employee burnout in a sustainable way, but we’d be forced to reassess how to best use our time working. 

“It’s rare for an employee to use the 40 plus hours a week they currently work in a continuously effective and productive manner. A pivot to four days a week could spell the end of meetings for meetings sake and help push more effective methods to get the job done.”

Last year, Atom Bank became the largest company in the country to make the move, and research shows 78 percent of employees who work four days a week say they are less stressed and happier. 

Employees on the six month trial will be paid for the same amount as a five day week and workers. The study will measure whether productivity stays the same on the shorter week.   

Rich Westman, the CEO and founder of the employee wellbeing platform said because the trial meant only 20 percent less work, people would be working longer hours when they were on the clock, which could have a negative impact. He said: “This could lead to higher stress levels during those four days as employees fight to ensure tasks are completed, as well as further impacting employees’ sense of connection to colleagues and subsequent sense of belonging to the business.”

Alan Price, CEO at HR consultants Bright HR agreed, saying: “Once proposed changes have been consulted and accepted, it’s important to keep an eye on employee performance and morale. A reduction in working days has been criticised for not recognising the underlying causes of employee burnout and dissatisfaction, namely that their workloads can become overwhelming.

According to Instant Offices, there has been a 110 percent rise in UK Google searches referencing a four-day working week this month. 

Mr Price added: “Employees on 4-day weeks are often still expected to produce the same levels of work as they would in 5 days, so find themselves more stressed. They may feel forced to work overtime during evenings or weekends which, ultimately, can end up causing more problems than you started with.

Meanwhile, Mr Kaido said: “Companies taking part in the trial will need to ensure that they are continuing to introduce wellbeing initiatives into those four days, rather than relying on a three-day weekend being enough and spending time considering how the four-day week isrealistically implemented.”