Canon’s UK branch to become latest company to test four-day week | work-life balance
A UK branch of the Canon camera company will this year become one of the latest firms to trial a four-day working week with no pay cuts, in a six-month trial led by university scholars of Cambridge and Oxford.
The trial comes as companies around the world are increasingly interested in the potential benefits of giving workers an extra day off. The pilot program will be run in collaboration with academics from Cambridge and Oxford alongside Boston College, the 4 day week campaign and the think tank Autonomy.
Six companies have joined so far for a pilot project, which is expected to start in June, although the researchers hope to attract between 20 and 30 companies in total.
Edinburgh-based Canon Medical Research Europe will test the four-day week among its 140 employees. It develops medical and artificial intelligence software, and its parent company is a member of the Japanese Nikkei 225 index.
Ken Sutherland, President of Canon Medical Research Europe, said: “We recognize that work patterns and the emphasis we all place on our work-life balance have changed significantly during the pandemic. As a responsive employer, we are always looking at how we can adapt our working practices to ensure that employees find their time with us to be meaningful, fulfilling and productive. For this reason, we’re keen to pilot a four-day week to see if it can work for us.
Participating UK companies are also expected to include software companies and a medical non-profit, and range in size from around 20 employees to several with over 100.
The four-day week, cutting normal hours by a fifth but with no loss of pay, has gained traction in recent years after some companies reported counterintuitive benefits, such as increased productivity and better job retention. staff – reducing a significant cost, especially for industries that typically have high staff turnover.
The app-based Atom Bank announced in November that it would permanently switch to a four-day week, with most employees likely having a three-day weekend as standard. Another Japanese tech company, Panasonic, said this year it would try optional four-day weeks.
Other big companies considering the four-day week include Unilever, the maker of consumer goods ranging from Marmite to Dove soap. It has extended the trial of some workers in New Zealand until June due to recent shutdowns. British supermarket chain Morrisons has announced it will introduce the measure for employees at its Bradford headquarters.
Pilot projects are already underway in Spain, Ireland and the United States, and a trial in Scotland was announced last year by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was a prominent defender and one of his aides set up the UK campaign.
Glasgow-based Pursuit Marketing has had a four-day week for all staff since 2016. Lorraine Gray, its chief operating officer, said the working model continued to be a success for the business, with a about 30% more productivity than before – more than making up for the lost day.
“It focuses the mind,” she said. “For anyone in the workplace, there are always times in your day when you could be more productive.” There are no more “Monday morning” sick days, she added.
Staff turnover remained low and there were mental health benefits. Pursuit has grown since 2018, when the Guardian first spoke to Gray, and he has been instrumental in running call centers seven days a week to test and protect the contact tracing system during the pandemic.
One of the UK academics studying the pilot will be Brendan Burchell, a professor of social science at the University of Cambridge, whose work has focused on issues such as the relationship between unemployment and well-being and the effects ‘flexible’ labor on British workers.
He said: “With the social and environmental benefits of the shorter workweek becoming clearer, grassroots support more widespread and technology available to maintain productivity, now is the time for more organizations to jump the step and sort out the practicalities.”