The world’s largest trial of a four-day working week has been hailed as a “major breakthrough” after the majority of participating companies announced their intention to continue with the shorter week. The study involved 61 companies across various sectors in the UK and was conducted over a six-month period from June last year. The trial required firms to reduce their working hours for all employees by 20% without any reduction in wages.
The research was carried out by academics from the University of Cambridge and the US’s Boston College, and coordinated by non-profit organization 4 Day Week Global, in partnership with think tank Autonomy and the 4 Day Week Campaign. The results of the pilot scheme, which revealed a significant decrease in rates of stress and illness among the approximately 2,900 staff who participated in the shorter working week, will be presented to MPs on Tuesday.
During the trial, the number of sick days taken by employees dropped by around two thirds, and 39% of employees reported being less stressed compared to the start of the trial. The study also revealed a decrease in anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and burnout, while balancing care responsibilities became easier for more staff. The report also noted a 57% decrease in the number of staff leaving participating companies compared to the same period the previous year, despite the “great resignation” period.
Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, praised the results, saying “across a wide variety of different sectors of the economy, these incredible results show that the four-day week with no loss of pay really works”. He added, “Surely the time has now come to begin rolling it out across the country.”
At least 56 out of the 61 companies confirmed they will continue with the four-day working week, while 18 of them have made the policy a permanent change. The study found that company revenue increased slightly by 1.4% on average over the trial period and by a higher 35% when compared to the same six-month period in 2021. However, concerns were raised by some staff about increasing workloads and less sociability in the workplace.
The researchers will present their findings at an event in the House of Commons on Tuesday, chaired by Peter Dowd, a Labour MP who proposed the 32-Hour Working Week Bill in October. Dr. David Frayne, a research associate at the University of Cambridge, expressed his encouragement with the results, saying, “We feel really encouraged by the results, which showed the many ways companies were turning the four-day week from a dream into realistic policy, with multiple benefits.”
The researchers concluded that “the benefits of a shorter working week for no reduction in pay are now both well-known and well-evidenced: employees are happier and healthier, and the organizations they work for are often more productive, more efficient, and retain their staff more readily”.