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UK 4-Day Week Pilot asks; Is the South East ready for a shorter working week?

The UK recently kicked off the four-day week pilot programme, the largest trial of its kind, which aims to practice a shorter working week, with no loss in pay for employees. It follows similar pilot programmes held in other parts of the world, such as New Zealand and Canada.

Thousands of workers across 70 UK companies are involved in the trial and have committed to maintaining productivity at 100%, while working just 80% of their weekly hours for 100% pay, over the six month trial period.

The beginning of a new era of flexible working.

From fish and chip shops, tech firms, to professional industry bodies, the trial has attracted the attention of a host of companies across the UK and the South of England, with hopes to either permanently switch to this style of working or simply test the waters.

The ambitious pilot acts as a catalyst for flexible working, aims to revolutionise corporate norms and hopes to demonstrate how a shorter working week can boost employee motivation, eliminate employee burnout and in turn, retain talent.

Joe O Connor, CEO of 4 Day Week Global, said: “The UK is at the crest of a wave of global momentum behind the four-day week.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, more and more companies are recognising that the new frontier for competition is quality of life, and that reduced-hour, output-focused working is the vehicle to give them a competitive edge.

“The impact of the 'great resignation' is now proving that workers from a diverse range of industries can produce better outcomes while working shorter and smarter.”

As the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of technology by businesses to facilitate remote and flexible working during the lockdown, it also redefined employee expectations in relation to how to work and where to work. The environmental benefits and cost savings of remote working were also made evident to employers which pave the way to embracing a shorter working week.

Andrew Barnes, Founder of 4-Day Week Global and pilot organiser, describes the flexible work revolution as a route through which businesses can increase productivity, profitability, and well-being, and help build a sustainable future.

Is the pilot programme a turning point for South East businesses?

While the pandemic rewrote the rules concerning how workplaces should operate, it also provided the optimum opportunity for employers to test flexible working on a grand scale, stride towards a less restrictive style of working and introduce more flexibility.

A study conducted by CV Library found that the South East was one of the top locations that showed the biggest year-on-year increase in four-day job postings at 108%, while the South West topped the table with 191.4%.

South East businesses are more inclined to take on staff looking to work a shorter working week. This is in the hope to fill more vacancies and appeal to a workforce that has weathered the pandemic and witnessed the scale of flexibility employers can grant in times of economic uncertainty, which must be extended to everyday life. Jon Munnery is a company liquidation and restructuring expert at UK Liquidators, part of Begbies Traynor Group.

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