As the UK and many other countries emerge from the unique working conditions of restricted life during the pandemic, early indications suggest that this pre-pandemic trend is continuing.
At the beginning of 2020, before the Covid pandemic, the average number of weekly hours worked by a full-time worker in the UK was 36.9 hours. After crashing to low numbers during lockdown, it gradually increased to 36.6 hours per week in early 2021 before slowly reducing to 36.3 hours according to the most recent data for Q3 2022. Notwithstanding these indications, there is emerging evidence that job intensity has increased in recent years, even if the number of working hours have not.
The Four Day Week campaign has gathered pace over the last twelve months. Companies across the UK and Ireland are trialling a four-day reduced working week with no reduction of pay. Emerging studies demonstrate the benefits in terms of productivity, employee attraction and employee wellbeing. While for many the prospect of mainstream adoption of a four-day working week on the same pay may seem remote, it was only a century ago, in 1926, that Henry Ford revolutionised the working week by moving from a six-day working week to a five-day week with no cut in pay.
Although the drivers behind a reduction in working hours remain, the cost of living crisis faced by many across the world will push some to work longer hours to make ends meet.