Benefits & Pensions
4 day workweek trial in U.K.: Shorter hours, happier employees
Work less, get more.
A trial of a four-day workweek in Britain, billed as the world’s largest, has found that an overwhelming majority of the 61 companies that participated over six months last year will keep going with the shorter hours and that most employees were less stressed and burned out and had better work-life balance.
That was all while companies reported revenue largely stayed the same over the June to December 2022 trial period and even grew compared with the same six months a year earlier, according to the findings released this week.
“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,” said David Frayne, research associate at University of Cambridge, who helped lead the team conducting employee interviews for the trial. “We think there is a lot here that ought to motivate other companies and industries to give it a try.”
The university’s team worked with researchers from Boston College; Autonomy, a research organization focused on the future of work; and the 4 Day Week Global nonprofit community to see how the companies from industries spanning marketing to finance to nonprofits and their 2,900 workers would respond to reduced work hours while pay stayed the same.
Not surprisingly, employees reported benefits, with 71% saying they were less burned out, 39% saying they were less stressed and 48% saying they were more satisfied with their job than before the trial.
Of the workers, 60% said it was easier to balance work and responsibilities at home, while 73% reported increased satisfaction with their lives. Fatigue was down, people were sleeping more and mental health improved, according to the findings.
For companies that rolled out the shorter work hours _ whether it was one less workday a week or longer hours in parts of the year and shorter hours the rest of the time to make an average 32-hour week — revenue wasn’t affected, the findings show.
Revenue grew 1.4% over the course of the trial for 23 companies that provided adequate data — weighted for the size of the business — while a separate 24 companies saw revenue climb more than 34% from the same six-month period a year earlier.
There was a drop in the likelihood of employees quitting, down 57% compared with the same period a year earlier, as well as those calling out sick, down 65% from a year ago.
Of the companies, 92% reported they would continue with the four-day workweek, with 30% saying it’s a permanent change.
“Not only do these findings demonstrate that the U.K. pilot program was a resounding success, but it is encouraging to note that they largely mirror the outcomes from our earlier trials in Ireland and the U.S., further strengthening the arguments for a four-day week,” said Charlotte Lockhart, co-founder and managing director of 4 Day Week Global.
There are, of course, industries that couldn’t institute shorter hours because they need workers round the clock, such as the hospitals and first responders. Such workers and many others have been walking off the job in the U.K. in recent months demanding better working conditions and pay that keeps pace with the high cost of living.
The pandemic changed the way the world works, with people seeking greater flexibility to improve work-life balance.
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