Pushing for a four day week. | OCTAVIO JONES


British photographer Paul David Smith had long toyed with the idea of switching all his staff to a four-day week, but it was the flexibility and reliability they showed in the pandemic that gave him the confidence to take the plunge.
Almost a year later and his trust has been rewarded.

He says staff at his eponymous studio have kept on top of the workload despite their reduced hours.
And they are far happier, too.

Smith is part of a revolution underway in the world of work - staff do shorter hours for the same pay - which has been gathering pace as economies look to bounce back from COVID-19.

From Iceland to Australia, governments and business are testing shorter work weeks, be it in fashion or fast food.
With dozens of companies set to take part in Britain's biggest ever trial of a four-day week, joining similar pilots in five other countries, Smith is at the vanguard of a movement that some believe could reshape workplace norms.

"The big game-changer has obviously been the pandemic," said Joe O'Connor of 4 Day Week Global, the New Zealand-based organisation co-running the British trial.

"Companies have not been able to monitor presenteeism in the way they previously did," he said. "As a result, that's opened the door to consider something like the four-day working week."

The pandemic forced mass change in office culture, as lockdowns that closed schools and offices resulted in a sudden shift to remote working and flexible hours as many people struggled to balance jobs with care responsibilities.
Many firms now offer increased flexibility in response to demand from workers, as the "great resignation" and tightening labour markets in countries such as the United States and Britain fuel competition for new staff.
Spain has offered its financial backing to a four-day week trial, Japan has urged companies to let staff drop a day, and New Zealand premier Jacinda Ardern is also a keen supporter.
Dozens of firms are already on board. Spanish fashion house Desigual switched to a four-day week last year, and consumer giant Unilever is trialling the shorter week across New Zealand.
O'Connor said there was huge British interest in the six-month trial, co-organised by think-tank Autonomy and researchers at Cambridge University, Boston College and Oxford University.
The organisation is also running three other mass pilots in the United States, Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
"Everyone's super excited - including myself," said Nathan Hanslip, chief executive of Yo Telecom, among those planning to take part when the British trial begins in June.
The extra day off will give workers extra "wellness, happiness and more family time", he added.