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Four-day working week dropped by UK tech company as founder claims it made work more 'stressful' for his staff

The four-day working week trial has been dropped by a UK tech company as it was said to be more 'stressful' for staff. Image by Adobe Photos.
The four-day working week trial has been dropped by a UK tech company as it was said to be more 'stressful' for staff. Image by Adobe Photos.

A company who launched a four-day working week trial earlier in the summer with the aim of ‘improving staff wellbeing’ has stopped the trial as they found it did the opposite for their health.

Krystal, a technology company based in London, began the new approach to work on 1 June with the intention of running a six week trial - but four months in they have cancelled it and returned to a five-day working week because they found it left their staff stressed.

In a blog post announcing the start of the trial, founder of the company Simon Blackler said it was his “hope that staff will come to work energised and capable of delivering even higher levels of service”. He also said “this [is] great for the team but the theory is that productivity will stay about the same, and quality will go up, which should improve the service clients receive. Win/win!”

However, he has now admitted that the trial did not work as he expected it too - and has abandoned the trial two months before the planned end date. In an email to customers Blackler wrote: “While team members did have the benefit of an extra day off, we discovered that the extra recovery time did not increase output by the 20% necessary to replace that which had been lost,” as reported by The Times.

He added: “While the team fought admirably to keep on top of work and turned around responses as quickly as possible it came at a cost — work time was now much more stressful than before. The opposite of what we were trying to accomplish.”

‘The exercise hasn’t been a total failure’

The trial included 18 workers who worked in the company’s technical support team. Staff involved worked the same hours and times as they had before the trial, just for one day less, so they worked 32 hours per week instead of 40. All pay and benefits, including annual leave entitlement, remained the same and all workers also enjoyed a consecutive three day break from work as they were given either a Friday or a Monday off work.

The plan was also that if the trial was successful it could be rolled wherever practical across other teams in the company. But it was not successful.

In the email, Blackler also apologised to customers, stating: “During the trial you may have experienced support that was slower than you’re used to or not the usual quality. If that’s the case then I’d like to apologise and can reassure you that things will be returning to normal.”

The return to a five-day week starts today (Monday 2 October). Blackler ended his email by saying: “While the outcome isn’t what we expected, I’m glad that we tried. Our heart was in the right place and the exercise hasn’t been a total failure.”

He also revealed that staff wouldn’t return to the exact same working pattern as before, and he hoped that the change would allow them to have a better work-life balance than before, even though they had returned to working five days a week. “After listening to feedback we’ve made a major adjustment I hope will improve staff work-life balance with fewer trade-offs — staff can now finish at 5pm instead of 6pm and have more evening time.”

Krystal was just one of hundreds of UK companies which signed up to take part in a four-day working week trial in the world’s biggest campaign of its kind. It was hailed a “major breakthrough” as 92% of the companies involved said they would continue offering a shorter week to their employees.

NationalWorld spoke to staff members from companies who had taken part - and they praised the trial and said they would be making the change permanent once it was over. Louise Verity, owner of Bookishly which creates a variety of literature inspired products and is based in Northampton, told us: “We’re just as efficient, and our team really enjoys the extra time. I really believe it’s the future of work.  Business CEO Becky Simms, who adopted the approach long before the trial at London-based Reflect Digital, also told us her team loved working less days: “The team’s happiness was instantaneous, that bank holiday feeling every week is amazing. The impact on staff wellbeing has also been fantastic.”