The trial, which will last six months, will see employees working a 32-hour week over four days. Company director Paul Maunders had been interested in the idea and sees it as a potential way to improve wellbeing of staff. After speaking to researchers and campaigners to better understand how to implement a trial and speaking to others in the company, Paul called an all-staff meeting in December last year to present the study and have an organisation-wide discussion on the idea. Later, a vote was taken which resulted in the decision to trial the shorter work week in 2019.

The six-month trial is split into two phases, each lasting three months. In the first phase of the trial, employees will retain their normal hours, which is currently 34 hours over five days for full-time employees. During this period, baseline data will be collected. This data includes a weekly survey for employees to self report levels of stress, wellbeing, job and personal life satisfaction, plus various company productivity measures captured from internal IT systems. The company is also working with a university partner which will measure employees’ cortisol levels - analysed from hair samples provided by Memiah employees - which is an indicator for levels of stress. Employees will also complete a more detailed survey monthly, which will contain specific questions around psychological and physical health.

For the second three-month phase, all staff involved in the trial will begin working a 32 hour, four-day week, whilst keeping the same pay. The office will remain open for five days a week, with individual team leaders responsible for ensuring that the new working patterns cover the entirety of the usual five days. There will also be a control group consisting of four part-time and one full-time employee, who will have had their wages raised by 6% for the period of the trial to ensure all participants receive the same uplift per hour worked.

“Our company mission is to make a happier, healthier society and so that has to start with our team. We want to see if switching to a four-day, 32 hour work week can improve their health and happiness, whilst maintaining or improving productivity for the company, so we have partnered with Dr Michael Chen, a scientific researcher in the US, and Anglia Ruskin University’s Biomarker Lab to help us run an evaluation. At the end of the study we will release our results so that other companies can learn from them.” Maunders said.

Memiah decided early on that measuring the impact in the change to a four-day work week was an absolute requirement. Having scientific data as well as self-reported measurements from its employees should provide a well-rounded snapshot of if the four-day work week is actually good in practice or if it’s something that sounds good in theory but doesn’t deliver. The company is going into this with an open mind as to the results.

After the six-month trial, Memiah will look at the findings from the evaluation and make the decision over whether or not they will make the change to a four-day week a permanent one.

Memiah Limited is an organisation that aims to build a happier, healthier society, by connecting people with self-care information, real stories and professional support across a range of mental health and wellness topics.

Interviews with Memiah spokespeople are available upon request, please email or ring Amie Sparrow on 01276 580030.

Photo by Damian Zaleski on Unsplash