After Testing Four-Day Week, Companies Say They Don’t Want to Stop
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After Testing Four-Day Week, Companies Say They Don’t Want to Stop

Firms saw productivity hold mostly steady and fewer employees quit

By VANESSA FUHRMANS
Thu, Feb 23, 2023 9:31amGrey Clock 3 min

Want to try a four-day workweek? Put this on the boss’s desk.

A large majority of U.K. companies participating in a test of a four-day workweek said they would stick with it after logging sharp drops in worker turnover and absenteeism while largely maintaining productivity during the six-month study.

In one of the largest trials of a four-day week to date, 61 British businesses ranging from banks to fast-food restaurants to marketing agencies gave their 2,900 workers a paid day off a week to see whether they could get just as much done while working less, but more effectively. More than 90% said they would continue testing the shorter week, while 18 planned to make it permanent, according to a new report from the study’s organisers.

The idea of working less than the conventional 40 hours over five days a week has been discussed for decades. The concept has gained new momentum recently as employers and employees seek new and better ways to work. The Covid-19 era ushered in broader acceptance of remote and hybrid work arrangements. Now, some employers, as well as policy makers, are exploring whether a shorter workweek can improve employee well-being and loyalty.

“At the beginning, this was about pandemic burnout for a lot of employers. Now it’s more of a retention and recruitment issue for many of them,” said Juliet Schor, an economist and sociologist at Boston College. Her team helped conduct the study with the nonprofit advocacy group 4 Day Week Global; U.K.-based think tank Autonomy, which focuses on issues including the future of work and climate change; and researchers at Cambridge University.

Global tests

Companies in the U.S. and Canada recently concluded a smaller pilot of a four-day week led by the U.K. study organisers, and similar trials are in the works in Australia, Brazil and elsewhere. Consumer-goods company Unilever PLC recently tested the concept in its New Zealand offices, while Spain’s government plans to pay companies to experiment with a four-day week. In a study in Iceland involving more than 2,500 employees across industries, researchers found most workers maintained or improved their productivity and reported reduced stress.

Widespread adoption faces a number of obstacles. Most companies that have experimented with a four-day week are small employers. Many larger companies haven’t embraced the concept. And at some companies trying four-day weeks, some workers have reported struggling to get everything done in that time.

In the U.K. study, which ran from June through November, most employees didn’t work more intensively, researchers say. Rather, they and their bosses sought to make work days more efficient with hacks such as cutting back on meetings and ensuring employees had more time to focus on completing tasks.

On a scale of 0 (very negative) to 10 (very positive), employers on average scored their productivity and performance over the six months at 7.5. A survey conducted halfway through the trial found 46% of companies said their business productivity had remained about the same, while 34% reported a slight improvement and 15% a significant improvement.

Meanwhile, 39% of employees said they were less stressed than before the pilot program started; about half reported no change. Nearly half observed improvement in mental health, and 37% also noted an improvement in physical health.

Zapping meetings

Claire Daniels, chief executive of Trio Media, a 13-employee digital-marketing agency based in Leeds, England, said she joined the trial to see whether a more effectively structured week could improve her business’s productivity. Before starting, she and her staff tracked and analyzed their workweek and concluded 20% of it was wasted in unessential meetings, business travel and other inefficiencies.

“So immediately, we knew we weren’t having to cram extra work in the four days,” she said.

Staggering everyone on Monday-Thursday and Tuesday-Friday schedules—with each employee having a partner to cover the day they were off—Ms. Daniels said she and her staff stopped holding marathon daily team meetings. And in longer meetings involving clients and multiple presentations, employees would drop in for portions and leave again, depending on how necessary their attendance was.

The hardest part, she said, was for staff to make sure they didn’t slip back into old work mind-sets or habits. On the whole, productivity was the same, or slightly improved, and revenue rose 47% compared with the year-earlier period, she said.

Ms. Daniels said she wants to continue the trial another six months before making a permanent change, “but I don’t see us going back to a typical five-days-a-week model.”



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The personal wardrobe of the late fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, who is credited for introducing punk to fashion and further developing the style, is headed to auction in June.

Christie’s will hold the live sale in London on June 25, while some of the pieces will be available in an online auction from June 14-28, according to a news release from the auction house on Monday.

Andreas Kronthaler, Westwood’s husband and the creative director for her eponymous fashion company, selected the clothing, jewellery, and accessories for the sale, and the auction will benefit charitable organisations The Vivienne Foundation, Amnesty International, and Médecins Sans Frontières.

The more than 200 lots span four decades of Westwood’s fashion, dating to Autumn/Winter 1983-84, which was one of Westwood’s earliest collections. Titled “Witches,” the collection was inspired by witchcraft as well as Keith Haring’s “graphic code of magic symbols,” and the earliest piece being offered from it is a two-piece ensemble made of navy blue serge, according to the release.

“Vivienne Westwood’s sense of activism, art and style is embedded in each and every piece that she created,” said Adrian Hume-Sayer, the head of sale and director of Private & Iconic Collections at Christie’s.

A corset gown of taupe silk taffeta from “Dressed to Scale,” Autumn/Winter 1998-99, will also be included in the sale. The collection “referenced the fashions that were documented by the 18th century satirist James Gillray and were intended to attract as well as provoke thought and debate,” according to Christie’s.

Additionally, a dress with a blue and white striped blouse and a printed propaganda modesty panel and apron is a part of the wardrobe collection. The dress was a part of “Propaganda,” Autumn/Winter 2005-06, Westwood’s “most overtly political show” at the time. It referenced both her punk era and Aldous Huxley’s essay “Propaganda in a Democratic Society,” according to Christie’s.

The wardrobe collection will be publicly exhibited at Christie’s London from June 14-24.

“The pre-sale exhibition and auctions at Christie’s will celebrate her extraordinary vision with a selection of looks that mark significant moments not only in her career, but also in her personal life,” Hume-Sayer said. “This will be a unique opportunity for audiences to encounter both the public and the private world of the great Dame Vivienne Westwood and to raise funds for the causes in which she so ardently believed.”

Westwood died in December 2022 in London at the age of 81.

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