On 21st February 2023, UK think tank Autonomy published a report on the findings of a four-day workweek trial. This was conducted over six months, from June 2022 to December 2022. The trial was conducted with companies from various sectors, including finance, healthcare, technology, and media. The trial aimed to investigate the impact of a shorter workweek on productivity, employee well-being, and business performance. The core idea of the four-day working week is shortened working hours for no loss in pay.
The trial comprised 61 companies and 2,900 workers from diverse sectors and sizes. The companies participating were not required to stick to a rigid pattern or working time. Pay needed to be maintained at 100%, and employees had “meaningful” reductions in work time. This meant a range of options was trialled, from the traditional “Friday off” model to staggered structures. The report recognised that one size does not fit all.
The report found that the trial was a resounding success. Of the 61 companies participating, as many as 56 (92%) are continuing with the four-day week.
The trial results were overwhelmingly positive. Employees report higher job satisfaction, work-life balance, and overall well-being. The key findings from the report include:
- Improved Productivity. Contrary to the common belief that a shorter workweek leads to decreased productivity, the report found that employees in the trial companies were more productive and focused during their working hours. Researchers attributed this to the employees being more rested, less stressed, and more motivated.
- Better Work-Life Balance: Employees reported having more time for personal interests and family life (54%), positively impacting their overall well-being. This, in turn, reduced absenteeism and increased engagement with work.
- Improved Mental Health: The trial showed that a shorter workweek had a significant positive impact on mental health, with employees reporting lower levels of stress (39%), anxiety, and burnout (71%).
- No Negative Impact on Business Performance: Contrary to some employers’ concerns, the trial found no negative impact on business performance. This included revenue, profits, or customer satisfaction. In fact, some companies reported increased revenue (1.4% on average, weighted by company size) and profits during the trial period. The number of staff leaving participating companies decreased significantly, dropping by 57%.
Considerations for Business:
The trial findings have significant implications for businesses, particularly those struggling with employee retention, productivity, and well-being. Some considerations for businesses include:
- Flexibility: Employers should consider offering flexible work arrangements, including a four-day workweek, to attract and retain employees. This can also lead to increased productivity and engagement and improved well-being.
- Communication: Employers should communicate with employees about the benefits of a shorter workweek and address any concerns about the impact on business performance.
- Planning: Employers should carefully plan and manage the transition to a shorter workweek to ensure it does not negatively impact business operations. This involves adjusting workload and staffing levels to ensure that employees can complete their work within a shorter timeframe.
- Monitoring: Employers should monitor the impact of a shorter workweek on productivity, employee well-being, and business performance to ensure that it remains sustainable and effective over the long term.
The findings of the four-day workweek trial provide compelling evidence of the benefits of a shorter workweek on productivity, employee well-being, and business performance. While the transition to a shorter workweek may require careful planning and management, the potential benefits for businesses and employees make it a worthwhile consideration for employers looking to improve workplace culture and retain top talent.
Companies should carefully consider the practical aspects of how a shorter workweek would function despite the encouraging figures provided in the report. Upon reading through the report, it becomes apparent that key areas require consideration.
The report also highlighted and was at pains to stress the amount of preparation and planning that went into the trial scheme by the companies involved, considerations such as the pattern, and whether the company protected the four-day week during the trial. The impact across the workforce was all considered.
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