4-day work week shows big benefits for both workers and employers in UK
More than 70 percent of employees reported less burnout.
For some workers, every weekend being a long weekend sounds like a dream. As it turns out, a four-day work week trial from the United Kingdom analyzing nearly 3,000 workers across 61 companies is adding to the pile of evidence that demonstrates how a a reduction of hours is good for employees, the bottom line, and possibly the planet itself.
From June to December 2022, the studied employees worked 80 percent of their usual hours without a reduction in pay. In exchange, they promised to deliver 100 percent of their usual workload. According to 4 Day Week Global (4DWG) and 4 Day Week Campaign, the nonprofit organizations that organized the trial, this is the largest number of companies to participate in this kind of research. Researchers from the University of Cambridge, Boston College in Massachusetts, and workplace research group Autonomy oversaw data collection, interviews, and the analysis.
[Related: Essential tips and tools for working remotely—from anywhere.]
Employees were surveyed throughout the trial to gauge what an extra day of free time does for workers. The results were published today with 1,238 workers completing a final survey about their experience.
About 71 percent of employees reported lower levels of burnout, with 39 percent reporting less stress compared with the beginning of the trial. Sick days were reduced by 65 percent and there was a 57 percent drop in staff turnover compared to June to December 2021.
Roughly 60 percent of employees found it easier to balance work and homelife. 62 percent of employees reported it easier to combine work with social life.
“Before the 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,” said sociologist Brendan Burchell, who led the University of Cambridge’s side of the research, in a statement. “Many employees were very keen to find efficiency gains themselves. Long meetings with too many people were cut short or ditched completely. Workers were much less inclined to kill time, and actively sought out technologies that improved their productivity.”
Company revenue barely changed, and even showed a marginal increase by 1.4 percent on average.
Additionally, male-identifying workers reported spending 27 percent more time taking care of their children, based on time diaries that were logged during the trial. Female-identifying participants reported 13 percent increase in childcare.
“It is wonderful to see that we can shift the dial and start to create more balance of care duties in households,” Charlotte Lockhart, founder and managing director of 4DWG, told CNN.
[Related: Burnout is real. Here’s how to spot it—and recover.]
A day off in the middle of the week meant some savings on childcare expenses for some of the parents of young children. For parents with older children, it meant some more general free time.
There were also some benefits for the planet. Simon Ursell, a founder of Tyler Grange, an environmental consultant group that participated in the trial, told the BBC, “On average we saw a 21 percent reduction in the number of miles traveled by car.” Tyler Grange cut out unnecessary meetings and travel and Ursell says some employees used additional days off to become more involved in volunteering.
The organizations that took part in the trial included a wide range of companies and sectors including online retailers, financial service providers, animation studios, housing, marketing firms, healthcare, and a fish and chip shop. About 92 percent of companies that took part in this pilot program said that they intend to continue a four-day work week and 18 companies confirmed the permanent change.
“We feel really encouraged by the results, which showed the many ways companies were turning the four-day week from a dream into realistic policy, with multiple benefits,” said David Frayne, a Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, in a statement.
As calls for a shorter work week have increased, some lawmakers in the United States are willing to put the state behind it to test its merits. Maryland legislators have proposed a bill (House Bill 181) that will encourage qualifying businesses that have at least 30 employees to implement a 4-day work week (without reduction in pay), as part of a 5-year pilot program. Companies would receive a tax credit to help maintain wages. If it passes, Maryland will be the first state to encourage a 32 hour work week.