App-based Atom Bank has adopted a four-day workweek for its 430 employees without cutting their pay. Staff now works for 34 hours over four days and get Monday or Friday off. As the COVID-19 pandemic pushed millions into remote work, calls for reduced working hours have only grown louder. Launched in 2016 as a mobile bank, Atom offers mortgages and business loans services. According to Mark Mullen, CEO of Atom Bank, “doing 9-5, Monday to Friday is a pretty old-fashioned way of working” and that the new set-up strongly reflected his staff’s inclination for a more flexible routine.

An experiment by Microsoft Japan in 2019, in which staff worked a four-day workweek on full pay, resulted in a 40% increase in sales. On the other hand, a three-month study by the UK research foundation Wellcome Trust found that compressing work into a Monday to Thursday window could negatively affect the well-being of some workers and harm productivity. “I think the challenge of simply reducing people’s working hours without other changes is that you can increase exposure to stress, which is already one of the main causes of working time lost to sickness absence,” said Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the Chartered Institute of Professional Development. Meanwhile, Mr. Mullen hopes that the change could attract new employees during the pandemic. “With Covid-19 causing vast numbers of people to reconsider how they want to live their lives, anything that leads to more productive, healthier, and, crucially, happier colleagues, is a win for everyone,” he added.