Britain Tests a 4-Day Workweek

Platten’s, a fish and chip shop in Norfolk, England, is also participating in the program.

“We believe that by giving our staff a better work-life balance they can work more efficiently and effectively,” Callum Howard, a spokesman for the restaurant, said.

The four-day workweek has been a workplace dream for decades. In 1956, then-Vice President Richard Nixon predicted such an arrangement in the “not too distant future.” But the reality has been unevenly implemented globally over the years, Dr. Schor, who is also leading research into other trials, said in a telephone interview.

Individual companies have tailored their approaches, particularly as the pandemic upended traditional work culture. In the United States, some companies allowed employees to trim their workweek, by cutting out Fridays, working hybrid shifts, taking pay cuts for fewer hours or setting their own timetables.

In New Zealand, the company Unilever kicked off a shorter workweek trial in 2020. In Iceland, a trial with a weekly work time reduction to 35 or 36 hours, involving about 2,500 government workers, has expanded during the pandemic, with 86 percent of all Icelandic workers now on, or eligible for, shorter time schedules, Dr. Schor said.

Most of the efforts are taking place in the private sector, but governments in Scotland and Spain have announced support, including subsidies, for four-day workweeks, she said. Companies in Ireland and Australia are starting trials on Aug. 1, and two more trials are starting in the United States and Canada in October.

Working from home during the pandemic has been the main factor driving the growing momentum for a shorter workweek, Dr. Schor said. “It made employers realize they could trust their workers,” she said.

Companies are also being forced to restructure the way they work.

“The companies that are really successful in this take activities off the plates of people,” she said. “The most common work reorganization has to do with meetings — the excessive number of meetings, excessive length and lack of efficiency in meetings.”

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