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More than 3,000 workers from 60 companies across Britain will test a four-day working week, in what is believed to be the biggest pilot scheme ever in the world.

Employees from a wide range of businesses and charities are expected to take part in the scheme, which will initially run from June to December, including the Royal Society of Biology, London brewery Pressure Drop, a medical device company based in Manchester. , and a fish and chips in Norfolk.

It comes as pressure for companies to adopt a shorter working week – especially without losing wages while aiming for higher productivity – is gaining momentum as a way to improve working conditions.

The pilot is led by academics from Oxford and Cambridge universities, as well as Boston College in the US, in partnership with campaign group 4 Day Week Global, UK campaign 4 Day Week and think tank Autonomy .

Trial launched to examine how such employment models could work across a wide range of businesses across the economy, participation of 3,000 workers means it is bigger than a previous pilot project in Iceland by the Reykjavík city council and the national government which included over 2,500 workers.

The research comes after the Covid pandemic led many people and businesses to re-examine their work habits, with a marked increase in hybrid and flexible practices that eschew the standard nine-to-five day working week.

Joe O’Connor, the chief executive of 4 Day Week Global, said there was no way to “go back” to the pre-pandemic world. “Increasingly, managers and executives are embracing a new work model that focuses on quality of output, not quantity of hours,” he said. “Workers have emerged from the pandemic with different expectations of what constitutes a healthy work-life balance.”

Other companies that have tried the four-day week and are not part of the latest trial include FTSE 100 consumer goods company Unilever, Japanese electronics company Panasonic and London-based Atom Bank.

Mark Downs, chief executive of the Royal Society of Biology, said the decision to trial the four-day week was partly a response to an “incredibly competitive” job market.

“It’s about trying to do more to be a good, innovative employer to attract and retain our current staff,” he said. “These kinds of opportunities make a huge difference. It’s great for everyone.

The company’s 35 employees mainly work in King’s Cross, London, but some have switched to remote working during the pandemic. Employees were notified of the lawsuit last week and the responses so far have been universally positive, Downs said.

The company will remain open five days a week, but with workers generally split between Monday-Thursday and Tuesday-Friday shifts.

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