Four-day work week could be the norm by 2030
- A six-month trial of a four-day work week without reducing pay was conducted in the UK involving 2,900 employees from various organisations.
- Nearly all participating companies continued with the four-day week without pay cuts for their employees.
- The trial resulted in a decrease in employee turnover by 57% and a decrease in sick days taken by 65%.
- More than 90% of companies chose to persist with the four-day week, with 18 making it a permanent policy change.
- Shorter workweeks improve employee morale, reduce burnout and absenteeism, and make employees happier and more focused.
A four-day work week implies that employees would work for four days and have a three-day weekend; it is essential to note that this arrangement does not entail a reduction in pay. In the UK, the five-day workweek has been a longstanding tradition for over a century, making any potential shift to a four-day workweek a radical departure from the norm. Nonetheless, implementing a four-day workweek could offer many benefits, such as addressing unemployment, promoting better health and well-being, and mitigating the climate crisis. According to the four-day Week Campaign, having more time to rest and spending extra time with family and friends are advantages of working fewer days.
About The Trial
A pilot program involved organisations implementing a four-day workweek without reducing employee pay. From small businesses to large corporations, the participating companies in the UK trial offered an array of products and services, ranging from
- building and construction recruitment services,
- automotive supply services,
- financial services,
- online retail,
- comprehensive case management services for individuals recovering from traumatic injuries.
- IT software training,
- food and beverage,
- animation studios,
- sustainable homecare,
- digital marketing,
- care services,
- professional development and legal training,
- education and workplace consultancy to banking,
Approximately 2,900 employees participated in the six-month trial, which began in June 2022 and was conducted by 4 Day Week Global in conjunction with the 4 Day Week Campaign, Autonomy, and researchers at the University of Cambridge and Boston College.
Key Findings Of The Trial
The outcome of the world's largest four-day working week trial, conducted in the UK, has been unveiled, revealing that nearly all participating companies have opted to continue with the four-day week without pay cuts for their employees. The report, co-authored by leading academics at the University of Cambridge and Boston College in the US and the think tank Autonomy, presents the following results:
- The likelihood of employee turnover decreased by a considerable 57%, resulting in enhanced job retention rates, while the number of sick days taken decreased by 65%.
- Out of the 61 companies that participated, at least 56 (92%) have chosen to persist with the four-day week, with 18 considering it a permanent policy change. Most companies were satisfied that business performance and productivity were not compromised.
- Over the six-month experimental phase, employee burnout and stress significantly decreased, with 71% of workers reporting reduced levels of burnout. Instances of anxiety, fatigue, and sleep-related issues diminished, while mental and physical health displayed positive improvements.
- Work-life balance measures also showed improvement, with employees finding it easier to manage their work and social responsibilities and reporting higher satisfaction levels with their household finances, relationships, and time management. Other key business indicators demonstrated favourable outcomes, with companies' revenue remaining unchanged, showing a 1.4% average increase.
Pros and Cons Of The System
A shorter working week can improve morale, less burnout, and fewer absences among employees, making them happier and more focused. A flexible working pattern, like a four-day workweek, can attract and retain talented professionals. However, specific industries like emergency services, public transport, and logistics may need help implementing this due to requiring a seven-day-a-week presence. Some workers may also prefer a five-day week or overtime, and specific sectors like healthcare may require additional staffing or overtime costs.
Why 2023 Is The Year Of Execution
The five-day workweek has seen resistance to shorter workweeks for decades. However, the pandemic increased stress and burnout among workers, leading to frustration and mass resignations in some sectors. This, in turn, gave employers evidence that workers could keep up with work even with a change in work patterns. The shift to remote work also changed how employers thought about scheduling. Some countries and companies have already adopted shorter work weeks, such as Denmark, whose average weekly total fell below 34 hours in 2002 and remains there. Studies have shown that a shorter workweek can improve morale, fewer absences, and increase productivity. In some pilot studies, participants used their third day off to spend time with their families, engage in leisure activities, and have personal time. This resulted in increased exercise frequency and decreased fatigue and insomnia. However, some industries require a seven-day-a-week presence, which makes a shorter work week impractical, and some employees prefer the structure of a five-day week or like working overtime. Furthermore, some sectors, such as healthcare, require staff to work long shifts, leading to increased costs if shortfalls are needed.
Is a four day working week possible in the UK?
Some workplaces in the UK already allow compressed hours, where employees work longer hours in fewer days. Marks & Spencer, for example, has permitted retail managers to work compressed hours since January 2023.
What are the benefits of a 4-day work week?
According to a study, a four-day workweek resulted in better health for many workers, with 40% reporting less work-related stress and 71% reporting lower levels of burnout.
Why are UK businesses experimenting with a four-day week?
A 2021 survey found that over 80% of people in the UK prefer a four-day workweek. The advantages of a four-day model include improved morale and fewer absences due to less burnout, making staff happier and more focused in their roles.