Major four-day work week trial shows benefits to both employers and employees

On the left side, a man is working at his computer and on the other side a woman is enjoying a sunny day at the beach.

New research shows that results from the world’s largest trial of a four-day week show the benefits of reducing hours and focusing on output. 

For decades, the “traditional” working model revolved around working five days a week, eight hours a day. However, the pandemic changed many employees’ relationships with work. As Boomers head into retirement age so is this “old-school” mentality with work. With Millenials becoming the boss and Gen Z climbing the employment ladder, the focus is more on flexibility and a more dedicated work/life balance. As working from home and hybrid models become the new normal, could a four-day working week follow?

A pilot program was conducted in the UK by the non-profit 4 Day Week Global, the UK’s 4 Day Week Campaign and the think-tank Autonomy to test this new working model. The program included 60 companies and nearly 3,000 workers through a six-month trial of a four-day week to find out how businesses and employees could stay productive on reduced hours. 

The results show that nearly every organisation that participated will stick to a four-day week – with 91 per cent continuing or planning to continue. Of all the companies that participated, only four per cent of participants will not continue on the shorter working week.

The impacts of a shorter working week on employees

The results of the program show that the greatest impact of the four-day workweek for employees was on their health and well being. The report highlighted increases in physical and mental health – with many saying they used the extra day off to exercise and focus on themselves. Stress, burnout and fatigue all fell, while problems with sleep declined.

For many employees, working five days a week is over. When asked to make a hypothetical trade-off between working time and pay, 70 per cent of employees said that they would need a higher salary of 10-50 per cent to return to a five-day schedule. 

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The benefit of a shorter working week for women

Newly appointed CEO of 4 Day Week Global and behavioural scientist Dr Dale Whelehan pointed out some interesting differences in the gender outcomes of this pilot program. “While both men and women benefit from a 4-day week, women’s experience is generally better. This is the case for burnout, life and job satisfaction, mental health and reduced commuting time.”

“Encouragingly, the burden of non-work duties appears to be balancing out, with more men taking on a greater share of housework and childcare.”

The business case for a shorter working week

While the results are certainly encouraging for employees, the decision to shorten the working week comes down to business leaders. From that perspective, the results are still encouraging. Revenue stayed approximately the same (rising slightly by 1.4% over the trial), and was up 35% in comparison to the same period in 2021. More importantly, there were also improvements in hiring, frequent sick days and quitting.

The evidence speaks for itself – the results of these trials have been extremely positive. While business leaders are extremely pleased with performance, productivity and their overall experience, employees are happier. As the way we work is a continuous evolution, it seems that now is the right time to consider a four-day week as the new normal.

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