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Future of work

Productivity up, revenue up, stress down, burnout down, sick leave down and staff attrition plummeting, the results are in on the world’s largest four-day working week trial to date.

And, nearly all of the companies who participated in the trial, comprising 61 companies and around 2,900 workers, say they are going to keep their reduced working hours.

Four-day working week figures

Key figures from the findings published this week included:

  • Of the 61 companies that participated, 56 are continuing with the four-day week (92 percent), with 18 confirming the policy is a permanent change.
  • ‘Before and after’ data shows that 39 percent of employees were less stressed following the trial.
  • Some 71 percent had reduced levels of burnout at the end of the trial. 
  • Employees also found it easier to balance their work with both family and social commitments – for 54 percent, it was easier to balance work with household jobs.
  • 60 percent of employees found an increased ability to combine paid work with care responsibilities, and 62 percent reported it easier to combine work with social life.
  • Companies’ revenue, for instance, stayed broadly the same over the trial period, rising by 1.4 percent on average, weighted by company size, across respondent organisations.
  • When compared to a similar period from previous years, organisations reported revenue increases of 35 percent on average – which indicates healthy growth during this period of working time reduction.
  • The number of staff leaving participating companies decreased significantly, dropping by 57 percent over the trial period.
  • For many, the positive effects of a four-day week were worth more than their weight in money. 15 percent of employees said that no amount of money would induce them to accept a five-day schedule over the four-day week to which they were now accustomed.
Source: Autonomy

Flexible four-day week

The research project, took place in the UK from June to December 2022 and was overseen by 4 Day Week Global, a non-profit organisation, in partnership with the 4 Day Week Campaign and think tank Autonomy. Academics at the University of Cambridge and Boston College in the US actually carried out the ground-breaking research on the ground.

Companies, which included a range of organisations from diverse sectors and sizes, were not required to rigidly deploy one particular type of working time reduction or four-day week, so long as pay was maintained at 100 percent and employees had a ‘meaningful’ reduction in work time.

Resisting the idea that the four-day week must be ‘one-size-fits-all’, each company designed a policy tailored to its particular industry, organisational challenges, departmental structures and work culture. A range of four-day weeks were therefore developed, from classic ‘Friday off’ models, to ‘staggered’, ‘decentralised’, ‘annualised’, and ‘conditional’ structures, said the project authors.

Joe Ryle, Director of the 4 Day Week Campaign

Joe Ryle, Director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, said: “This is a major breakthrough moment for the movement towards a four-day working week.

“Across a wide variety of different sectors of the economy, these incredible results show that the four-day week with no loss of pay really works. Surely the time has now come to begin rolling it out across the country.”

Charlotte Lockhart, 4 Day Week Global Co-Founder and Managing Director, said: “We’re delighted to add these overwhelmingly positive results to our ever-growing evidence base in favour of reduced-hour, output-focused working. Not only do these findings demonstrate that the UK pilot programme was a resounding success, but it is encouraging to note that they largely mirror the outcomes from our earlier trials in Ireland and the US, further strengthening the arguments for a four-day week.

“While the impacts on business performance and worker wellbeing are expected and welcome, it’s particularly interesting to observe the diversity in findings across various industries. These results, combined with our previous research demonstrate that non-profit and professional service employees had a larger increase in time spent exercising, while the small group of construction/manufacturing workers had the biggest reduction in burnout and sleep problems. Certainly something to explore further in future pilots.”

Dr David Frayne, Research Associate at University of Cambridge, said: “The method of this pilot allowed our researchers to go beyond surveys and look in detail at how the companies were making things work on the ground.

“We feel really encouraged by the results, which showed the many ways companies were turning the four-day week from a dream into a realistic policy, with multiple benefits. We think there is a lot here that ought to motivate other companies and industries to give it a try.”

UAE moves on the working week

In January 2022, the UAE became the first country to lower its official working week to 4.5 working days as it moved to align with global markets from Monday to Friday, but also sought to embed a better work-life balance.

UAE officials reported at the World Economic Forum that since its introduction productivity had also increased along with a decrease in absenteeism and presenteeism.

Public sector workers in the emirate of Sharjah moved to a four-day week shortly after the nationwide move.

Click here to download the full report