In Hove, Great Britain, a small cosmetics manufacturing and packaging company, Five Squirrels, is one of 61 companies taking part in the four-day, one-week program.
Its owner, Gary Conroy, employs 15 workers who have worked since last June, from Monday to Thursday, many times and overtime, having Friday off, without lowering their salary.
The “wacky” by some experiment – it is in the context of a test carried out in Britain, to see if the efficiency of four-day labor decreases or increases – has attracted the interest of economists and companies who want to find a solution. to the decline in worker productivity seen in Britain and other Western economies.
Productivity, or economic output per hour worked, rose on average by just over 2% a year in Britain from the 1970s until the 2008 financial crisis, supporting a steady rise in living standards.
But from 2010 to 2019, growth averaged just 0.75%, and the Bank of England forecast productivity to remain weak for years to come, partly due to more post-Brexit red tape.
In this context, the transition to a four-day job, where productivity will remain at the same level as this five-day job, is one of the bets of the companies between and Cinco Ardillas.
56 of the 61 companies with up to 25 employees that participated in the pilot program declared themselves completely satisfied with the result of the experiment and now apply this work policy.
They reported that overall productivity and efficiency were maintained, although some companies were forced to pay overtime on all four business days. However, this shows a failure to cut a full eight hours out of the week.
investments are necessary
The companies 4 Day Week Campaign and the research group Autonomy, which are carrying out the pilot test, told Reuters that after the success of the first phase they will carry out a second one on June 12, for which they have already received hundreds of applications.
But it is not just low worker productivity that is reducing output in Britain. The low investment of the companies themselves in new technology and infrastructure was one of the biggest problems in the countries of G7 in 2021, according to World Bank data.
Experience from the first trial shows that the transition to four-day work can have great results if companies spend more on new equipment and training.
Stellar Asset Management CEO Darryl Hein said the financial services firm introduced new technology to streamline and automate processes when it decided to implement the four-day job.
Although this initially risked job losses, Hine said “the benefits are ultimately many and can be seen by everyone.”
Five Squirrels’ profits increased during the four-day work period, not only because workers were more satisfied but also because the company made investments.
Conroy purchased new machinery to make smaller batches of sunscreens, wrinkle creams, skin firming cleansers and serums, and a new label machine.
The company also created a weekly schedule, bundling work so that 120 products were packaged per hour, up from 25 before.
From 6 days to 4 working days
Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, an economics professor at Oxford University, said a 10% increase in productivity is a more realistic target than aiming for a 20% increase in productivity from the switch to four-day work.
“It’s been almost 100 years since we went from a six-day job to a five-day job…so it’s time to start thinking about the next steps,” he said, referring to the US automaker Ford that first established the job. of five days. labor day in 1926.
While big companies were more skeptical of the idea, the tests and the COVID pandemic, when millions of people suddenly switched to telecommuting, forced employers to be more open-minded about different work practices.
″There is a status quo bias. Employers are very wary of trying something new,” said Jonathan Boys, senior economist at Britain’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, adding that there are also workers who prefer to work longer hours and be paid more. But there are also some, especially young people, who consider the four-day job as a motivation to accept a new position.
Spain is also starting a program over the next two years, where it is going to spend 10 million euros, to subsidize small manufacturers so they can reduce workers’ working hours by at least 10%, while maintaining their wages.
The model works for multinationals
Among the top companies looking at different options is Unilever, the global consumer goods giant that employs 127,000 people.
The company piloted a four-day shift for 80 of its employees in New Zealand for 18 months. Since then, it has extended overtime to 500 workers in Australia, a move it hopes will attract new workers.
Nick Bangs, head of Unilever Australia and New Zealand, said eliminating unnecessary meetings (meetings) contributed to increased sales in New Zealand, while workers were less stressed and more energized. Likewise, absenteeism decreased by 34%.
Britain suffers from a severe labor shortage and the largest companies often have a huge advantage in recruitment. In recent years, however, the establishment of the four-day work function acts as a motivation and tips the balance.
Nick South, a senior partner at the Boston Consulting Group, said smaller companies can become more competitive by shifting to a more flexible work model that will give them an advantage in hiring qualified people.
Unlike any other major economy, Britain’s workforce at the start of 2023 was smaller than it was before the pandemic and job openings tripled due to early retirement and long-term illness.
Britain’s employment agency Reed.co.uk said it has seen an increase in the number of job postings offering four-day work since the start of the year.