Why we’re trialling a four day week

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UPDATE: we have now decided to extend this trial until (at least) Friday 29 September 2023.

For six months, from Friday 7 October, the team at CLES will trial a four day/full pay working week, becoming one of the first think tanks in the UK to do so. In this blog, released to mark the start of the trial and World Mental Health Week 2022, CLES’s Chief Executive, Sarah Longlands, explains the thinking behind the trial.

Over the last few years, the way in which people work has changed. This isn’t just because of the pandemic (which has led to more hybrid working practices and enabled many people to work from anywhere), the increasing intensity of digital working has also blurred the distinction between work and home life. This can leave us feeling exhausted and overwhelmed which, in turn, can adversely affect our relationships in work and at home. This happens at CLES but isn’t unique to us: many organisations are experiencing a similar dynamic, made worse by the difficulties in recruitment at the current time.

One way to help address this is to reduce the working week, to enable people to make a clearer distinction between work and home life and to create a working environment which is more welcoming and inclusive.

“higher […] levels of productivity, a lower carbon footprint and staff retention levels”

A four day week – where employees work for 80% of their contracted time and retain their full time salary – is increasingly being accepted as a measure which could benefit, not only the health and wellbeing of staff, but also our society, economy, environment and democracy. Adoptees of the four day week hope to see higher overall levels of productivity, a lower carbon footprint and higher staff retention levels. Over the last year we have worked alongside the independent research organisation Autonomy to design a trial methodology that will help us to find out more about how our work can fit around a four day week. We think it’s important to do this to ensure that we continue to deliver on our mission of creating progressive local economies for people, place and planet, right across the UK and beyond.

Over the next six months, we expect to gain insight into how we can work smarter and more effectively as a team, and with our partners, as well as tackling any challenges that arise so that we can work towards adopting a four day week permanently. As an early adopter, we also hope to inspire others to do the same – we’re keen to share our learning and insights about the process throughout the next six months.

“crucial insight into the way we work”

Will our four day week go beyond the trial? We certainly hope so – I’m looking forward to spending more time with my children, and my colleagues’ plans range from catching up on life admin to walking the Pennine Way but, even if it doesn’t, we will gain crucial insight into the way we work. We’ll be richer for that, even if it does mean facing some hard truths, and we hope our sector will too.

The CLES team will not work on Fridays from Friday 7 October 2022 until 31 March 2023, with occasional exceptions. If you’d like to find out more about our experiences of the four day week or have any other questions about our work, please get in touch.