4-Day Work Week: Could It Become The Norm In The UK?

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28 February 2023 – Following the largest 4-day work week trial in the world, over 90% of the companies taking part opted to extend the trial.

Between June and December 2022, 61 businesses across the UK took part in a 4-day work week trial, the largest of its kind in the world.

The pilot was set up by the campaign group 4 Day Week Global in collaboration with the think tank Autonomy and researchers at Boston College, the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford.

Now that the pilot scheme has ended, the results have been analysed and published in a report. And it looks like the trial was a success.

The Trial

61 companies across the UK and across different sectors took part in the trial. With 18%, the marketing/advertising sector was the largest group. 16% of participating companies came from the professional services sector and 11% were charities/non-profits.

Other sectors that took part included healthcare/social care, arts/entertainment, retail, construction and manufacturing.

66% of firms that took part were small businesses with 25 employees or fewer. 22% had 50 or more staff. In total, about 2,900 staff were involved in the pilot scheme.

Companies were able to decide in what way they wanted to reduce the hours of their staff. But they had to commit to an 80% reduction with 100% of pay maintained, while the staff had to commit to deliver 100% of their work in the reduced hours.

Not all participating businesses chose the same policy, which shows that a one-size-fits-all approach would not work. Four different types were used by the participants.

Some companies closed for an additional day, with all staff getting the same day off. Others took a staggered approach, where part of the company were off on one day and the other part on another.

A decentralised approach was taken by some firms, where each department could choose how they would reduce the working hours for their staff. The last approach was the annualised one, where staff worked an average of 32 hours per week but calculated over the year.

The Results

After the trial ended, the participating companies and staff were asked questions to measure the success of the trial.

56 out of the 61 businesses that took part reported that they would continue the 4-day work week, that’s 92%. Of these, 18 firms have made the four-day week permanent.

The majority of companies have had a good experience with the four-day week. On a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is very negative and 10 very positive, the trial got an average of 8.3.

In terms of business performance and productivity, the average score was 7.5, showing that the majority of firms were satisfied with the impact of the trial on these areas.

Across a wide variety of different sectors of the economy, these incredible results show that the four-day week actually works.

Joe Ryle, Director of the 4-Day Week Campaign

The study results also show that there was on average a 35% increase in revenue compared to the six months before the trial started.

The number of employees during the trial period also stayed stable, with only a slight decrease of 1.3%.

But not just the companies were happy, so were the employees. 90% reported they would like to continue the 4-day work week. 55% said they worked better and 15% said they will not go back to a 5-day week, even if offered more money.

Work stress declined during the trial period, with 39% reporting a decrease in stress. 13% said they were more stressed at work and 48% said their stress levels stayed the same.

The researchers also found a decline in burnout, with 71% saying they experienced lower levels of burnout. 22% reported higher levels of burnout.

These figures were also supported by the finding that 48% of employees were more satisfied at the end of the trial than at the beginning.

Not Everyone Is Convinced

While these results might suggest that we are on the verge of the four-day week for all, not everyone is convinced.

According to a survey of its members by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) last year, only 34% thought that the four-day week would become the norm in the next ten years.

66% of employers surveyed said that moving to a 4-day working week without pay reduction would only take place if the company can increase its efficiency and work smarter.

68% said their firm would have to boost its adoption of technology to make this a reality. This rather sounds like the majority of businesses in the UK don’t think the four-day week will become the norm any time soon.

Some critics of the four-day week also say that the initial boost in productivity would soon disappear once the change was permanent and staff got accustomed to it.

So while many firms, especially small businesses, can see the benefits of the 4-day work week, big businesses will need more convincing before it can become a reality for everyone.

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The Business4Beginners news team consists of several writers who each have their own unique experience in businesses. By keeping their fingers on the pulse, they bring you the latest in news and trends impacting small UK businesses.
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