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Sheffield firm launches revolutionary four-day week pilot

For six months Rivelin Robotics in Kelham Island will reduce their working hours by 20% with the same pay as before.

Rivelin climbing

A staff member at Rivelin Robotics climbing in the Peak District.

Rivelin Robotics.

A small Sheffield firm are taking part in a radical pilot to assess the benefits of a shorter working week.

Staff at Rivelin Robots in Kelham Island will work a four-day week with no loss in pay, on the understanding that the company’s productivity will remain the same or increase.

The firm is taking part in a UK-wide pilot that includes 70 companies and over 3,300 workers, in what has been called the world’s biggest trial of a four-day week.

As well as Rivelin Robotics, participants include tax specialists, banks, marketing companies and even a fish and chip shop in Norfolk.

The pilot’s organisers, who include Cambridge University and the think tank Autonomy, want to test the impact of a 20% reduction in working time on staff wellbeing, as well as overall productivity.

“I wanted the team to try the four-day week because I believe increased productivity comes from an increase in rest, not in a vacuum,” Rivelin Robotics founder Robert Bush told Now Then.

“Rivelin is starting with everyone having Friday off, work hours being a rigid and office-based 8am to 5:30pm, no mobile use at all, no lunch at desks and two hours of ‘do-not-disturb’ time per person per day,” said Bush.

“These were bottom-up initiatives that the team came up with together.”

The pilot will run for six months and will involve seven members of staff at the company, which was founded in 2018 and builds industrial robots that precision cut, grind and file metal.

Throughout the pilot researchers will monitor wellbeing, workload and productivity metrics, and participating firms will have access to mentoring on how to transition to a four-day week as well as peer-to-peer support from other companies.

Similar studies are already underway or will soon take place in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland and Israel.

A small number of companies in the UK have already transitioned to a four-day week permanently, including a housing association, a firm of architects and a board game manufacturer.

Research has shown that reduced working time would have a positive impact on the environment, partly due to fewer people commuting by car. One recent study found that a four-day week in the UK would reduce overall emissions by 20%.

Counterintuitively, supporters also say that reduced working time boosts overall productivity thanks to a better work-life balance and more rest time.

Another study by Henley Business School, looking at firms that have already adopted the idea, found that 64% of them reported improved overall productivity despite the 20% cut in hours.

Rivelin office

Rivelin Robotics founder Robert Bush says he hopes to see the company maintain at least 100% productivity during the trial.

Rivelin Robotics.

If taken up across the country, researchers at Henley have calculated that it would lead to a £104 billion annual net benefit to UK businesses.

Bush says that he wants to see “at least 100% productivity, better customer service and improved staff wellbeing.” The pilot will run until December.

“With the pandemic easing off and workers desperate for a better work-life balance, now is the perfect time for companies to implement a four-day week,” Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, told Now Then.

“In the wake of the great resignation, organisations across Sheffield should embrace the four-day week as a way of retaining staff and attracting new talent.”

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