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UK online bank introduces four-day work week: more firms to follow?

UK online bank introduces four-day work week: more firms to follow?
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How amazing would it be if you only had to work four days a week but still got paid for five? It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, one firm is doing exactly that for its employees.

Atom Bank, a digital bank in the UK, has implemented a four-day workweek for its staff, becoming the biggest employer in the UK to transition from the traditional five-day workweek.

So, could we see other major firms follow suit? What are the advantages of a four-day workweek? Let’s take a look.

Atom Bank’s four-day workweek: how will it work?

As reported by the BBC and The Times, Atom Bank, which employs 430 people, has introduced a new work schedule (as of 1 November) for its employees that will see them work for 34 hours a week over four days. Previously, employees worked 37.5 hours per week, spread out over five days. The new arrangement will be voluntary.

Those who choose the four-day workweek have to work longer hours during the days they are in (8.5 hours as opposed to the previous 7.5). Despite the shorter workweek, employees’ wages will remain the same.

Explaining the change, Atom Bank CEO Mark Mullen said: Before Covid, the conventional wisdom was you had to commute in, sit at a desk all day and repeat that process when you commuted home. Covid showed us that it wasn’t necessary I think doing nine to five, Monday to Friday, is a pretty old fashioned way of working.

What are the advantages of a four-day workweek?

Several studies have shown that a four-day workweek can reduce employee stress and burnout and promote a better work/life balance.

Trials of a four-day workweek in Iceland between 2015 and 2019 were considered a resounding success. Productivity remained constant or improved in many workplaces, and the majority of workers reported vastly improved health and work-life balance.

So, in a nutshell, both employees and companies can benefit. Employees, get more free time to spend time with loved ones and pursue other interests. And companies benefit through higher productivity and decreased employee burnout and staff turnover. 

It could also allow employees the extra time they need to start a side hustle. Indeed, according to a survey carried out by task marketplace Airtasker, 35% of UK workers are planning to supplement their earnings with a second income if a four-day workweek is approved.

Could a four-day workweek become the norm on a national level?

This remains to be seen.

Over the years, there have been calls to abandon the traditional five-day workweek in favour of one that is four days long. Such calls have increased in the aftermath of the pandemic.

In the study by Airtasker, 57% of people reported that they would like to have more space in their workweek by reducing the number of working days to four.

In Scotland, the government appears to have taken note of people’s desire for more flexible work arrangements. The Scottish National Party announced a four-day workweek pilot scheme in September.

However, there do not appear to be any other government-led trials of a four-day workweek elsewhere in the UK. And for the time being, no other major firms have shown any indication of adopting this type of work schedule.

Only time will tell whether a four-day workweek could become the norm on a national scale.

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