Market Loop - UK launches four-day work week trial

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19th January 2022

Bite-sized business news from the UK and beyond
Good morning  ‘Energetic’ and ‘enthusiastic’ - two words often seen on job descriptions but one of the UK’s biggest insurers says it will no longer use them. Phoenix Group, which employs 7,000 people, said that the adjectives were “younger-age stereotypical words” that could put off over-50s from applying.
Today's stories
  • UK launches four-day work week trial
  • Microsoft’s record $70bn gaming takeover
WORK
UK launches four-day work week trial


What’s going on?
30 British companies are taking part in a six month pilot scheme that will see staff work the for the same pay but over four days instead of five.


Why is this important?
A hundred years ago the standard work week moved from six days to five and in recent years momentum has been building  to take this down to four.

Yesterday 30 companies begun a trial to test whether paying their workers 100% pay for 80% of the time will maintain at least 100% productivity. 

The scheme is being organised by 4 Day Week Global, a not-for-profit established for like-minded people who are interested in supporting the idea of the four day work week as a part of the future of work.

Supporters of a shorter week claim that it will improve workforce productivity, work-life balance and wellbeing.

Iceland carried out the world’s largest four day working week trial between 2015 and 2019 with researchers calling it an 'overwhelming success'.

In 2019, Microsoft Japan tried a four-day week for a month and found that productivity rose by 40% with workers reporting being happier and taking less time off.

But critics argue that the format will increase the pressure to squeeze more work into fewer hours. It’s also trickier to implement in some areas such as customer facing jobs and 24/7 operations like the NHS.

 
Takeaway
The pandemic has made millions of people reassess what they want out of working life with flexible and remote options becoming more popular.

4 Day Week Global is organising trials in other large economies this year including the US, Canada and Australia. Major companies like Morrisons and Unilever are also rumoured to be considering the change. If all goes well then a four day week could become the new norm.
GAMING
Microsoft’s record $70bn gaming takeover

Microsoft has gone turbo into video gaming. Yesterday the software giant announced the whopping $69bn acquisition of Activision Blizzard, the maker of popular games like ‘Call of Duty’, ‘World of Warcraft’ and ‘Candy Crush’.

It’s the largest gaming takeover in history and Microsoft’s biggest deal ever, dwarfing its $26bn acquisition of LinkedIn in 2016.

So what’s the rationale? Activision’s 390m monthly users will boost Microsoft’s gaming business across mobile, PC and consoles.

But Activision’s major appeal is that it gives Microsoft the building blocks for the metaverse – where the physical and digital worlds collide and the next frontier for the Internet. Anyone who’s anyone has announced plans to step into this arena in the past year.

Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, Disney and even supermarket Walmart have grand ambitions for their own gaming and metaverse initiatives.

The Xbox maker also has its eyes set on Japan’s Sony and China’s Tencent – the two biggest gaming console producers. The Activision deal makes Microsoft number three.

The deal comes following a turbulent time for Activision. There have been high profile allegations of harassment, abuse and generally bad corporate culture.

The merger is expected to complete in 2023. The size will mean it’s likely to face scrutiny from competition watchdogs in the US and Europe before it's finalised.
Stat of the day

China's birth rate has dropped to the lowest level since 1949
Other stories to keep you in the loop
  • Millions face second record energy price hike this year, analysts warn
  • Pay rises wiped out by surging inflation, official figures show
  • Oil price hits highest level since 2014 on Middle East supply fears
  • UK backs Kenya railway hub as part of $1bn investment plan
  • Together Energy: Council-backed gas and electricity provider collapses
  • Hotel Chocolat sales up 37% as shoppers go wild for nuts
  • Morrisons cuts sick pay for unvaccinated workers
  • Aldi opens its first till-free supermarket
  • THG shares slide as it misses profit margin forecasts
Interesting links from around the web
  • How to manage your money and make a budget you can actually stick to
  • The best starting words to win at Wordle
  • How to get a better night’s sleep
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