Atom Bank launches a four-day workweek without reducing pay

By Daniel Thomas
BBC News Business Reporter

Image source, Atom Bank
Caption for the image

Atom Bank is led by Mark Mullen since 2014.

Atom Bank is offering a new four-day workweek to its 430 staff, without any reduction in their salaries.

Workers now work an average of 34 hours for four days. Monday and Friday are off.

Boss Mark Mullen said to the BBC that he was motivated by the pandemic, and that it would improve the wellbeing of staff and help them retain their jobs.

But employees must work harder on days they have off.

Mullen who is the leader of the Durham-based bank, said, “Before Covid the conventional wisdom was that you had to commute in and sit at a computer all day. Then you could commute home.”

“Covid showed us that it wasn’t necessary…I think doing 9-5, Monday to Friday is a pretty old fashioned way of working.”

  • “I don’t think I can go back to a 5-day week.”
  • Iceland: Four-day Week ‘a huge success’

Atom was one of the UK’s first digital challenger banks and had £2.7bn of loans on its books in the last financial year. After a thorough review, the new arrangements were approved by management and implemented on November 1.

Mullen stated that the arrangement was voluntary but that it was strong and reflected the preferences of his employees for flexible work.

He said, “Everybody is expected to adhere to it.” He said, “I don’t want to send emails to my staff on Fridays. I can’t assume that they will respond.”

Work patterns have changed in the past. The majority of British workers had six days a week in 1921. However, Henry Ford (USA) and Boots (UK) popularized the two-day weekend to boost productivity and wellbeing.

There are many similar calls to a 4-day workweek, with the same claims of improved lives.

Research has shown that four-day weeks in Iceland’s public sector were a huge success and reduced stress levels.

Microsoft Japan reported sales growth of nearly 40% in a 2019 experiment that saw employees work a full week for free.

Some employers disagree.

2019: The Wellcome Trust UK, an international science research foundation, decided not to try a week-long trial for 800 of its staff. They said that it would prove too difficult operationally.

Following a three-month investigation that showed that workers could suffer from lower productivity and wellbeing if they were forced to work on Mondays through Thursdays, the decision was made.

“Increased stress exposure”

Ben Willmott (head of public policy, Chartered Institute of Professional Development), stated to the BBC that employers should seek to decrease workers’ work hours but not compromise their wages.

“But, I don’t think it is possible to reduce peoples work hours by making other changes. It is also possible to increase the stress levels, which are already the leading causes of lost time due to illness absence.

Atom has asked its workers to reduce their work hours by half. Their hours, however, have not been reduced by more than one hour. Mullen assured workers that they would get the same pay and enjoy a weekend of three days in perpetuity.

It will also help to attract talented people at a time when bank staff are losing their jobs due to the pandemic.

Covid-19 is prompting a large number of people to think about how they would like to live their life. This means that everyone benefits from anything that makes them more productive, healthy, and most importantly, happier.


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