The world’s largest trial of a four-day work week was conducted in the UK recently. The 61 organisations that took part in this pilot study cut working hours by 20 per cent for all staff, with no fall in wages, for a six-month period starting in June 2022. The organisations involved in the trial ranged from online retailers and financial service providers to animation studios and a local fish-and-chip shop. Other industries represented included consultancy, housing, IT, skincare, recruitment, hospitality, marketing, and healthcare.
Research for the trials was done by a team of social scientists from the University of Cambridge, academics from Boston College in the US, and a think tank called Autonomy. The trial was organised by 4 Day Week Global in conjunction with the UK’s 4 Day Week Campaign.
The design of the trial involved two months of preparation for participants, with workshops, coaching, mentoring, and peer support and drew on the experience of leading research and consultancy organisations and companies that had already moved to a shorter working week.
The results revealed that the workforce had significantly reduced rates of stress and illness, with 71 per cent of employees self-reporting lower levels of “burnout” and 39 per cent saying they were less stressed compared with at the start of the trial. Many survey respondents said they found it easier to balance work with both family and social commitments: 60 per cent of employees found an increased ability to combine paid work with care responsibilities, and 62 per cent reported it easier to combine work with social life.
There was a 65 per cent reduction in sick days, and a 57 per cent fall in the number of staff leaving the companies compared with the same period the previous year. Company revenue even increased marginally, 1.4 per cent on average, during the trial period. The vast majority of companies retained full-time productivity targets.
In the report presented to UK lawmakers, 56 of the 61 companies said that they intended to continue with the four-day work week, with 18 companies confirming the change as permanent.