Four-day week pioneering pilot programme a huge success, new research reveals
New research published today reveals companies who gave their staff an extra day off per week, with no reduction in pay, experienced increased revenue alongside reduced absenteeism and resignations. Workers felt less stressed and burnt out, and reported higher rates of life satisfaction, according to the findings of six months of trials for a four-day week.
The four day week programme is being coordinated by the non-profit 4 Day Week Global in partnership with researchers at Cambridge University and Boston College. The research report from this pilot in North America and Ireland was authored by academics at Boston College, University College Dublin and Cambridge University. This work builds on previous research led by experts at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.
Companies rated their experience a 9 out of 10, with none returning to a five-day week post-trial. Revenue rose an average of 38% when compared with same period in previous year. The findings from the pilot showed that the extra day off is so valuable to workers, that 70% say they would need a 10-50% pay increase to return to 40 hours.
The research comes at a time when the future of work is being debated in the light of new trends such as 'work from home' (WFH) and 'hybrid work' that have emerged since Covid-19.
'Findings also show significant declines in the duration and frequency of commuting, plus other positive environmental outcomes. None of the participating organisations are returning to a five-day week,' said 4 Day Week Global.
Dozens of companies and thousands of employees took part in the trials. It included about 1,000 people employed by nearly 30 companies from the US, Ireland, Australia and Canada.
Organisations participated under the principle of no loss of pay for the employees – paying 100% of their salaries for 80% of the time.
The results of the pilot scheme by 4 Day Work Global also shed light on how WFH and hybrid work trends will unfold as Covid-related limitations on work life slowly fade away as the businesses, employers and workforce position themselves in a fast-evolving environment.
'Throughout history, our working patterns have adapted to the challenges of the day: whether that be more time toiling at an industrial loom, or a farmer shifting their hours to eke out productivity during fading daylight hours.
'But now, almost a century on from Henry Ford introducing the two-day “weekend” to his factories, many nations are still stuck with a 40-hour week split across five days of work regardless of industry – something which is increasingly at odds with our 21st Century lifestyles,' said Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Professor of Economics and Behavioural Science at Oxford Saïd. Professor De-Neve is the Director of the Wellbeing Research Centre at the University of Oxford which is associated with 4 Day Week Global.
In addition to trials in the US, Australia and Ireland, 70 UK companies and more than 3,300 workers began working a four-day week with no loss of pay last June in the biggest ever four-day week pilot to take place anywhere in the world so far. This trial is being led by 4 Day Week UK Campaign in partnership with the think tank Autonomy and preliminary results are expected to be published in 2023.
From a local fish-and-chips shop to large corporates, the companies in the UK pilot provide products and services ranging from education to skincare to food and beverage and IT and digital marketing. The researchers measured the impact on productivity, the wellbeing of workers, and the impact on the environment and gender equality.
Among the arguments in favour of a four-day week are positive impact on productivity, the wellbeing of employees, and the environment as well as savings in childcare and commuting costs. Work-life balance is also considered to be an important factor taken into account by employees.
'There’s no question that a four-day week requires a large-scale change in mindset from both organisations and their employees. My own research in collaboration with British Telecom helps explain why working less hours doesn’t necessarily mean an equivalent loss in output. We were able to causally estimate the positive impact of feeling better during the week on our weekly productivity,' said Professor De Neve.
For more insights on the four-day week and its impact on wellbeing and productivity you can read an article in The Conversation by Professor De-Neve and you can find the full report on the pilot programme on the 4 Day Week Global website.