An environmental consultancy has become the latest business to announce it will trial a four-day working week.
Tyler Grange, which offers firms services such as advice on tree planting projects, has joined 60 other companies in signing up for the ‘4-day week’ pilot programme which begins in June.
The UK-wide initiative will see a coordinated, six-month trial of organisations operating a four-day working week, with reduced hours but no loss in pay for participating employees.
The scheme, which will form part of study conducted by researchers from universities including Oxford and Cambridge, will runs alongside similar trials in Ireland, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
All six of Tyler Grange’s UK offices in Bristol, Birmingham, Exeter, London, Manchester and the Gloucestershire village of Rendcomb – which employ around 80 workers – will take part.
From June, each of the company’s hubs will be closed on Fridays with staff given the opportunity to rest, take on community or voluntary work, or train.
Julian Arthur, technical director at Tyler Grange, said “We know that mental health issues are rife in consultancy. It’s an industry which has too often been plagued by growing demands, diminishing timescales and increasing complexity. Mental and physical burnout is a real problem, and it can’t be glossed over anymore. It’s time to make a change.”
Mr Arthur revealed employees had previously left the company as they felt they “couldn’t keep the pace up” and needed to change how they worked.
He added: “We realised that being constantly ‘on’ wasn’t sustainable and it isn’t what we wanted for our business.”
Mr Arthur said the company, which is hoping to achieve B-Corp status by the end of this year, expected to see reduced absences and an increase in productivity during the trial.
Mr Arthur said: “The pilot programme made it clear that the time to act is now. We know the employee wellbeing benefits and we know that productivity can increase by up to 15%. We’ve been working incredibly hard on making this a reality for the last four years. So, what are we waiting for?”
Tyler Grange staff are already able to take one day off a month to volunteer, do charity work or for personal development, with Mr Arthur saying it had “slowly” seen other businesses in its industry do the same.
He added the firm may get some “backlash from the old guard” on its new four-day initiative, but the trial would have a “snowball effect” and prompt other firms to adopt one too.
Stephanie Coward, senior ecological consultant at Tyler Grange, said she was “really excited” for the trial which she thought would “boost” her mental health.
Ms Coward said: “In the first few weeks and months, I certainly plan to book things in to make sure I don’t slip into doing work I didn’t quite finish. I hope to get back into swimming or running more but before making that commitment it’s all about spending time with those closest to me.
“My friend is moving back to Australia in September so until then I have booked her in (and some other friends who are on maternity leave) every Friday for ‘fun filled Fridays’. Maybe bottomless brunches – that is something I can definitely commit to.”
Joe Ryle, campaign director of the four-day week pilot said many companies across the UK were beginning to embrace this model as a way of retaining staff and attracting new talent after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Ryle said: “The pilot programme will gather all the data and evidence to prove it works – from a productivity perspective but also from an employee wellbeing perspective.
“We want the businesses taking part in the pilot to share all their learnings – good and bad – to help build a picture of the future viability of this initiative. And to show how it could become a reality for the working lives of the majority of people in the UK.”
Another Bristol-based environmental organisation City to Sea, which employs 19 people, recently announced it was moving to a four-day week without reducing pay, after receiving positive feedback from staff during a trial.
Professional services firm PwC has also said in May it will be allowing its employees to condense their working week to finish at lunchtime on Fridays during the summer, as part of its hybrid working policy. A trial last year found the move had a “positive impact” on staff well-being.
However, Business tycoon Lord Alan Sugar criticised PwC’s plan as a “total joke.”
The star of BBC series The Apprentice wrote on Twitter: “There is no way people work as hard or productive as when they had to turn up at a work location. The pandemic has had long lasting negative effect.”
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