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Biggest UK firm yet to trial four-day working week

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The idea that shorter working weeks can boost productivity has been around for some time, but now – in the UK at least – the theory will be put to test on a grand scale.

Simply Business, a UK insurance firm with more than 500 employers, is set to introduce shorter working weeks (with no reduction in pay) in its call centres in Northampton.

Staff will be allowed to work four-day weeks – or five shorter days or split shifts – in order to allow more time for outside commitments, such as picking children up from school.

Debs Holland, call centre general manager, said the move could be ‘potentially life-changing’ – particularly for employees with caring responsibilities – and the hope is that greater flexibility will boost staff wellbeing, thereby increasing productivity.

New Zealand organisation Perpetual Guardian employs 240 staff and introduced a four-day week in 2018. The trial was announced a success, with 78% of staff feeling they could successfully manage their work/life balance (compared to 54% previously). Staff stress levels also reduced, while stimulation, commitment and a sense of empowerment at work all increased.

Simply Business will introduce the scheme in September, and the aim is to increase productivity by 20%.