Success for 4-day week trial

Ninety-two per cent of the 61 companies that participated in the world’s largest four-day week trial want to continue with it, with many noting declines in sick days and a boost in retention and mental wellbeing.



Almost every company that took part in the world’s biggest four-day working week pilot has decided to continue with the new day of working, according to a report out today.

The four-day week trial is based on the idea of reducing the working week by 20%, with no loss of pay for workers, to allow more opportunity for rest. Individual employers taking part could interpret this in their own way and according to the demands of different functions in the business or of their sector.

The report, published  by the think tank Autonomy and academics at the University of Cambridge and Boston College in the US, found that in the UK pilot – which uniquely included in-depth researcher interviews with those taking part – almost every company (92%) that took part has decided to continue with the four-week after the pilot. Of the 61 companies that participated, at least 56 are continuing with the four-day week, with 18 saying the policy is a permanent change.

The vast majority of companies were satisfied that business performance and productivity was maintained with 64% of companies saying they had managed to implement their four-day week without staff feeling that work had become more intense. Over the six-month trial period, stress and burnout for employees both significantly declined, with 71% of employees reporting lower levels of burnout. Reported levels of anxiety, fatigue and sleep issues also decreased, while mental and physical health both experienced improvements.

Measures of work-life balance improved. Respondents found it easier to balance their work with both family and social commitments, and were more satisfied with their household finances, relationships and how their time was being managed. Employees kept a journal of their activities during the trial and these showed that male employees spent 27% more time on childcare, compared to an increase of 13% for mums.

Companies’ revenue stayed broadly the same, rising by 1.4% on average. There was also a substantial decline (57%) in the likelihood that an employee would quit and a 65% reduction in the number of sick days.

Most of the companies that took part were SMEs, but some were corporates. They covered sectors including education, banking, care, financial services, IT software training, professional development, legal training, housing, automotive supply services, hospitality, online retail and many more.

Around 2,900 employees took part. Last month, South Cambridgeshire District Council became the first local authority to trial a four-day week, with very early results showing reduced stress levels for staff and no negative impact on service delivery.

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.”

Frayne also noted that getting staff engaged in the roll-out of the pilot was a big factor in its success and that a top-down approach was the least effective approach. And he added that there were some benefits that he had not anticipated. He said: “One of the things that stood out to me were the financial savings people could make by working one day less, which is obviously very significant in a cost of living crisis. People could do more for themselves. We had participants, for example, who had childcare responsibilities and a partner working in the same company. By taking alternating days off, these couples could reduce their reliance on private childcare by 40%, which is a big financial saving. One person was tearful talking about how much it had helped them. It led me to wonder what other savings people could make with the benefit of a permanent four-day week.”

*Dr Frayne will be speaking about the trial at the Cambridge Festival in March. Click here for details.

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