79% of business leaders open to four-day working week, new poll shows

Andrew Kersley

A new poll conducted by Survation indicates that 79% of business leaders are open to the idea of introducing a four-day working week to their companies in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The research, commissioned by the 4 Day Week Campaign and think tank Autonomy, asked a cross-section of 500 executives, directors and business owners for their views on the policy proposal.

47% of respondents said they would be “very open” to the idea, which has been trialled by many companies during the pandemic, and a further 32% said they would “quite open” to it. Only 9% said they were “not at all open” to it.

Reacting to the new findings, Joe Ryle, a campaigner with the 4 Day Week Campaign, said: “This is exactly the right moment to introduce a four-day week with no reduction in pay across the country.

“The four-day week is no longer seen as a scary idea to business because they are realising that it would boost productivity and give workers a much better work-life balance. It’s time for business, working with the trade unions and the government, to make it happen.”

TUC analysis from last year found that workers in the UK are putting in the longest hours in the European Union, at an average of 42 hours each week, despite our productivity lagging behind other European countries.

The 4 Day Week Campaign is calling for a four-day, 32-hour working week with no reduction in pay for workers except for the highest of earners who can afford to take the option.

A poll earlier this year found that nearly two thirds of the public – including even a majority of Tory voters – thought the government should consider the policy as a way to help cope with coronavirus.

Commenting on the results of the new study, Autonomy’s director of research Will Stronge said: “The four-day week is popular with businesses, trade unions and even Conservative voters.

“Some businesses have already begun getting on with it themselves post-Covid-19 but this added support from business leaders should put the rocket boosters on. The UK has a unique opportunity to be a pioneer for the four-day week and it’s about time we get on with it.”

Research by Autonomy released in August looked at the economic impact of a four-day week in the public sector and found that the move would create up to half a million new jobs, helping to limit the anticipated rise in unemployment.

Left-wing Labour shadow cabinet member Andy McDonald backed trials of a four-day week at an online event earlier this month, citing benefits to workers’ wellbeing, the climate and the economy as a whole.

He said: “The potential benefits of a four-day week… regarding the importance of non-work time for our mental and physical health, our sense of wellbeing generally and how this would increase productivity, should in my view be increasingly trialled with the introduction of more pilot schemes.”

“And if piloted on a larger scale, it would also enable us to measure other potential reductions in air pollution and overall carbon footprint – obviously vitally important as we seek to address the existential challenges of climate change.”

The Shadow Employment Rights Secretary suggested that “beleaguered” sectors of the economy, such as arts and hospitality, could benefit hugely from the increased engagement brought about by consumers with more free time.

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