4-day week to continue for trial participants

From June to December 2022, more than 60 UK companies took part in a trial of a four-day working week with no loss of pay for employees. The pilot scheme saw around 3,000 workers representing over 30 sectors receive 100% pay for 80% working time. The scheme was coordinated by 4-Day Week Global, in partnership with research institutions in the UK and USA.

Following completion of the UK trial, 92% of participants say they are continuing with a four-day week, with 18 confirming they will implement it as a permanent contractual arrangement. Of the five companies who are not continuing, two have opted to extend their trials and three are pausing for the moment.

The results found that implementing a four-day working week improved employees’ health and wellbeing, with significant increases observed in physical and mental health, time spent exercising, and overall life and job satisfaction. Rates of stress, burnout and fatigue decreased, and businesses benefited from reduced absence levels and improved retention rates as a result, with the number of staff leaving over the trial period falling by 57%.

Similarly, business performance and productivity scored an average of 7.5/10, and companies rated their overall experience of the trial an 8.3/10. The trial also contributed to increased revenue when compared to a similar period from previous years.

Some employers are cautious about the results, arguing that participants would have not signed up to the trial if they didn’t want it to be a success. Many have also commented that six months is not long enough to fully assess the long-term benefits and drawbacks of utilising a four-day week working pattern.

At the same time, the results found that some people were still doing work on their day off, with 15% of employees reporting an increase in working hours and 13% experiencing no change. Maintaining 100% output, as per the goal of the trial, may be difficult for many organisations with one full day lost per week. However, employers may be able to combat this, and minimise the impact of burnout and absences, simply by reviewing workloads to ensure they are reasonable and achievable for their teams.

This being said, the results seen in the UK and globally indicate a number of positive effects of a four-day week, including a more motivated and satisfied workforce, which are more likely to perform better; improved retention rates, to combat the Great Resignation and reduce employers recruitment pressures; easier recruitment initiatives, where these are necessary; improved gender equality; reduced expenses for employees (particularly in commuting and childcare costs); and an overall better work-life balance.

As the cost-of-living crisis continues, employers are under more pressure than ever to support employees mentally, emotionally and financially. For some, implementing a four-day working week may be an effective way to do so, however, this it won’t be a realistic proposition for all employers. Despite this, employers should be open-minded to all suggestions for improving the working environment and employee relations, and take time to fully consider whether trialling an initiative like a four-day week would be a worthwhile endeavour.

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