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How the world's biggest four-day work week trial run changed people's lives

Reference: CTV News

Workers are fed up.

More than two years into the pandemic, many have burned out, quit their jobs or are struggling to make ends meet as record inflation takes a huge bite out of their paychecks.

But, for the past eight weeks, thousands of people in the United Kingdom have tested a four-day schedule — with no cut to their pay — that could help usher in a new era of work.

It's the world's biggest trial of a four-day work week so far. Already, some workers have said they feel happier, healthier and are doing better in their jobs.

Lisa Gilbert, a lending services manager at Charity Bank, an ethical loans provider in the southwest of England, describes her new routine as "phenomenal."

"I can really enjoy my weekend now because I've got my Friday for my chores and my other bits and pieces or... if I just want to take my mum out for a walk I can do that now without feeling guilty,"she told CNN Business.

Gilbert cares for her son and two elderly parents. The extra day off a week means she no longer has to collect her groceries at 6 o'clock on a Saturday morning, and she can devote more time to her family.

"I find that I'm saying 'yes we can' as opposed to 'no sorry we can't,'" she said.

The six-month pilot commits 3,300 workers across 70 companies to work 80% of their usual week in exchange for promising to maintain 100% of their productivity.

The program is being run by not-for-profit 4 Day Week Global, Autonomy, a think tank, and the 4 Day Week UK Campaign in partnership with researchers from Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College.

Researchers will measure the impact the new working pattern will have on productivity levels, gender equality, the environment as well as worker well-being. At the end of November, companies can decide whether or not to stick with the new schedule.

But, for Gilbert, the verdict is already in: it's been "life changing," she said.

The transition has not been without its hiccups, though.

Samantha Losey, managing director at Unity, a public relations agency in London, told CNN Business that the first week was "genuinely chaotic," with her team unprepared for the shorter work handovers.

"To be totally honest with you, those first two weeks — really a mess. We were all over the shop. I thought I'd made a huge error. I didn't know what I was doing," she said.

But her team quickly found ways to make it work. Now, the company has banned all internal meetings longer than five minutes, keeps all client meetings to 30 minutes and has introduced a "traffic light" system to prevent unnecessary disturbances — colleagues have a light on their desk, and set it to 'green' if they are happy to talk, 'amber' if they are busy but available to speak, and 'red' if they do not want to be interrupted.

By the fourth week, Losey said, her team had hit their stride, but admits there is "absolutely" a possibility she could reinstate a five-day schedule if productivity levels drop over the course of the six-month trial.

"There's a good 25% chance that we won't get to keep it, but the team so far are fighting incredibly hard for it," she said... Read More