Does a 4-day week work?

Does a 4-day week work?

The world’s largest 4-day week trial is complete, and they’ve just released their report.

61 UK companies participated in the trial by reducing their employees’ working hours for 6 months without any loss of pay. The report is now out with interesting results for the future of work. Ninety-two percent of participating companies have said they will continue with the new working pattern, at least for now.

What is a 4-day week?

The 4-day week trial was the brainchild of 4 Day Week Global in partnership with Autonomy, the 4 Day Week Campaign, and researchers at the University of Cambridge and Boston College. 61 companies participated in the 6-month UK pilot, with participating companies operating in a wide range of industries including professional and financial services, housing, online retail, food and beverage and hospitality, digital marketing and sustainable homecare.

Think tank, Autonomy and top academics from the University of Cambridge and Boston College have released a much-anticipated report on the trial.

Highlights from the report include:

  • 56 of the 61 participating companies have said they are continuing with the 4-day week for employees.
  • 18 of these companies have already committed to making this a permanent change, with the others continuing with the trial to monitor longer term results.
  • Most companies are satisfied that productivity has been maintained, despite employees working fewer hours.
  • 71% of employees reported lower levels of burnout.
  • There was a 65% reduction in sick days.
  • Companies’ revenue stayed broadly the same, rising by 1.4% on average.
  • There was a substantial decline (57%) in the likelihood that an employee would quit, dramatically improving job retention.

Source: 4dayweek pilot programme

Would a 4-day week work for my business?

 Offering a 4-day week to your staff can have several potential benefits for both your employees and your business.

  • Improved work-life balance: Employees have more time to focus on their personal lives or pursue other interests, which can lead to reduced stress levels and improved overall well-being.
  • Increased productivity: Workers have fewer outside distractions and can better focus on their work during their working hours, leading to a more productive time at work.
  • Enhanced employee retention and recruitment: Offering a 4-day week can send a powerful message that you value employees’ wellbeing and can be a huge tick on the pro list when recruiting for people who value work-life balance and flexibility.
  • Cost savings: Depending on your business model, a 4-day week could potentially lead to cost savings on things like office costs and other overhead expenses.
  • Positive impact on the environment: A 4-day week could also help reduce your company’s carbon footprint by reducing the number of commutes your employees need to make each week. Another big tick for you not only with potential employees but with your customers as well.

Ok, I’ll take a look, what should I do first?

Change is often a thorny field, particularly in the world of work. A 4-day week will not be feasible or appropriate for every business, and it may require some adjustments to workloads, schedules, and expectations.

For those who want to consider how it could work in their business, think about some initial changes you can make first.

  • Do you really need that meeting? – Who hasn’t been in an unproductive meeting at some point? Before setting a meeting, think about what you want to get out of it and create an agenda. Set a time limit and don’t forget to nominate someone to follow up on the action points.
  • Can your email be dealt with on a phone call or message? Reading through emails can take a large chunk of someone’s working day, particularly if its part of a lengthy email chain. A quick phone call can often get the answer you need immediately or consider using communication software such as Teams or Slack for instant messaging.
  • Encourage your staff to use focused time. Go on DND for a set amount of time to crack on with a project or answer communications without unnecessary distractions.
  • Review your job descriptions to focus on outcomes, not tasks. Give employees the freedom to achieve outcomes in the most efficient way rather than following a possibly outdated and time-consuming process.

​For businesses that can make it work, offering a 4-day week can be a powerful way to attract and retain top talent while also improving productivity, reducing costs, and promoting employee well-being. However, there are lessons that all businesses can learn from watching the trial with interest and continually reviewing its ways of working. We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for more results.

Erin Belmont

About the author

I look after the marketing for Octopus – from the social media and website you see online to the events we put on throughout the year.

I love being in the middle of things, soaking up the lively dynamic atmosphere. The team at Octopus really care about our job searchers and clients and do everything they can to understand everyone’s needs and make intelligent and productive job matches. Their drive and fun loving spirit inspire me every day!