The results of a six-month study in the UK have been published, and this is good news for all fans of the four-day work week.
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In June 2022, 61 UK organizations embarked on a six-month trial of a four-day work week. Employees had their working hours reduced by 20 percent without a change in wages, and performance was monitored closely by experts.
Now, the results of the study show how employee well-being has improved, retention has increased, and sickness has decreased—all without compromising profits.
The study was conducted by a team of scientists from the University of Cambridge, Boston College and the Autonomy think tank. Some 2,900 employees were involved in industries ranging from IT and financial services to healthcare and even a fish and chip shop.
Even halfway through the experiment, things looked good, with many companies reporting positive intermediate results. The upbeat reports came after a similar pilot program in North America and Ireland. However, the full results of the UK study, which is the largest to date and the first to include in-depth exploratory interviews with staff and executives, were eagerly awaited.
“The method of this pilot project has allowed our researchers to go beyond surveys and examine in detail how companies are making it work in the field,” said Dr David Frain of the University of Cambridge in a statement.
Compared to the start of their probationary period, 71 percent of employees reported lower levels of “burnout” with a 4-day work week, and 39 percent said they experienced less stress. Employees also reported improved work-life balance, with 62% finding it easier to balance work and socializing, and 60% feeling better able to balance work and caregiving responsibilities.
This reported improvement in well-being was also confirmed in the sickness and employee retention results, with participating companies reporting a 65% reduction in sick days and a 57% reduction in employees quitting their jobs.
On top of everything else, the company’s revenue actually increased slightly during the test, averaging 1.4 percent, so the changes didn’t seem to hurt performance.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, 92 percent of the participating companies said they were willing to continue with the program, with 18 of them already confirming that the change had become permanent.
“We are very encouraged by the results, which show that companies are turning the four-day workweek from a dream into a realistic policy in many ways with multiple benefits,” Frain said.
“Before the trial, many wondered if we would see an increase in productivity to compensate for the reduction in working hours, but that is exactly what we found,” added colleague Professor Brendan Burchell, who led the work at the University of Cambridge.
Companies were flexible in how they implemented the reduction in working hours. For example, one restaurant ensured that their working week averaged 32 hours throughout the year, maintaining longer opening hours in the summer and much shorter hours in the winter. Managers have also taken steps to maximize employee time during the shorter week, such as reducing the number of meetings and improving handoff processes at the end of the day.
“When we ask employers, many of them are convinced that the four-day work week will continue,” Burchell said. “Personally, it was inspiring for me to just talk to so many optimistic people over the past six months. A four-day work week means a better work and family life for so many people.”