Employment

Every single company embracing four-day working week says move has been 'positive', study finds

Nine-in-ten businesses that trial the four-day work week keep the policy in place after a year, new research shows

Nine-in-ten businesses that trial the four-day working week keep the policy in place after a year, new research shows.

Longing for the weekend already? A study released on Wednesday (21 February) has some encouraging news. One year on from the world’s biggest ever four-day week pilot, nearly 89% of organisations have kept the policy in place.

In 2022, some 61 companies took part in the world’s biggest four-day week trial, organised by think tank Autonomy and researchers from University of Cambridge, the University of Salford and Boston College in the US.

More than a year on from the trial’s conclusion, at least 54 of are still using the policy – and some 31 (51%) have made the change permanent.

“One year on from the results of the UK’s four-day week pilot, virtually every company we’ve spoken to has decided to stick with the four-day week,” said Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy.

“The improvements in physical and mental health, work-life balance, and general life satisfaction, as well as the reductions in burnout found at the end of the trial have all been maintained one year on.”

Does the four-day working week work?

Earlier this month, the 4 Day Week campaign said that most British workers will be working four days per week by the end of the decade.

Five-day, 40-hour weeks have been the standard for decades – but it hasn’t always been this way. In 1870, industrial employees clocked a gruelling 60-90 hours a week, slogging away for up to 15 hours a day, six days a week.

Unions fought for the reduced working week we enjoy now, and for the two day weekend. Campaigners believe that the four-day, 32-hour week is the “next natural step.” One year on from the pilot, businesses seem to agree.

According to the survey results released today, 100% of consulted project managers and CEOs said that the changing in working had a positive impact on their organisation, with 55% saying the impact was “very positive.”

Some 96% of surveyed staff members reported a positive impact on their personal lives

These are “excellent results” showing “long-lasting” impacts, said Juliet Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College.

“Overall results have held and in some cases have even continued to improve. Physical and mental health, and work-life balance are significantly better than at six months,” she said.

“Burnout and life satisfaction improvements held steady. Job satisfaction and sleep problems nudged down a bit, but the bulk of the original improvement remains.

“The key point is that the strong findings at six months are not due to novelty or short term impacts. These effects are real and long lasting.”

Despite the reduction in hours, research suggests that worker productivity stays the same – indeed, productivity improved in nearly half (46%) of organisations. In addition, 50% saw positive effects on reducing staff turnover and 32% said it noticeably improved job recruitment.

“Before the [2022] trial, many questioned whether we would see an increase in productivity to offset the reduction in working time – but this is exactly what we found,” sociologist professor Brendan Burchell, who helped conduct the 2022 UK trial, told the Cambridge University Press.

Work can change “pretty quickly,” head of the 4 Day Week Campaign Joe Ryle told the Big Issue last month.

“A change is well overdue… a 40-hour work week doesn’t work on a human level, there’s not enough time for all the other things that we want to do in life.”

Polling commissioned by the 4 Day Week Campaign in 2023 found that 58% of the public expects the four-day week to be the standard way of working by 2030.

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