Amid positive outcomes of the UK experiment, experts urge organisations to proceed with caution as many benefits will only be ‘truly identifiable in the long term’
Almost every company that took part in the world’s biggest four-day week trial has decided to continue with the reduced working hours model after “incredible” UK pilot results, a report has shown.
The report, published on 21st February, by UK think tank Autonomy and leading academics at the University of Cambridge and Boston College revealed that at least 56 of the 61 participating organisations (92 per cent) will continue with the new working pattern, with 18 saying the policy has become a permanent change.
While the trial’s results showed that the companies’ revenues stayed broadly the same – rising by 1.4 per cent on average over the six-month period – some of the biggest benefits of shorter working hours were improved mental and physical wellbeing, with 39 per cent of employees being less stressed, and 71 per cent having reduced levels of burnout at the end of the trial.
Around 2,900 employees took part in the six-month trial conducted by campaign group 4 Day Week Global, which ran from June to December 2022.
The report revealed that, as part of the trial, the participants “resisted the idea that the four-day week must be ‘one size fits all’”, so each company designed a policy tailored to its particular industry, organisational challenges, departmental structures and work culture.
A range of four-day weeks were therefore developed, from classic ‘Friday off’ models, to ‘staggered’, ‘decentralised’, ‘annualised’ and ‘conditional’ structures.
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, chief innovation officer at ManpowerGroup and professor of business psychology at Columbia University and UCL, said he was surprised by the findings: “I would have expected a favourable trend, but not unanimous support,” he said.
“The main explanation for this success is that people just work harder when you reward them with freedom and flexibility. In other words, if you are forcing people to spend five days at work for tasks they could achieve in four, then let them have a four-day week.”
Meanwhile, the trial has also demonstrated improved job retention, with a substantial decline (57 per cent) in the likelihood that an employee would quit the company where they worked a four-day week, along with a 65 per cent reduction in the number of sick days taken.
A recent CIPD report on the four-day week found that a third (34 per cent) of organisations think this pattern will become a reality for most UK workers within the next 10 years, while currently only 10 per cent of firms have reduced working hours without reducing pay for the whole or a significant part of their workforce.
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