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Less is more

3 March, 2023

The results of the largest four-day week trial are in, and they are impressive – 92% of the 61 organisations who took part (reducing working hours for all staff for six months with no fall in wages) intend to continue.  

Self-report measures from employees revealed that 71% had lower levels of “burnout”, and 39% were less stressed. Work/life balance improved: 60% were more able to combine paid work with care responsibilities, and 62% found combining work with social life easier. Interestingly, workers were also less inclined to kill time, instead seeking out technologies that improved productivity to ensure they continued to perform well, and reforming working practices such as shorter meetings, and interruption free “focus periods”. 

Arguably, evaluating via self-report measures introduces bias: who wouldn’t want to show their boss a four-day working week works. However, the trial also demonstrated value for employers. They experienced a 65% reduction in sick days and a 57% fall in the number of staff leaving compared to the same period the previous year. Furthermore, company revenue increased by 1.4% on average for the 23 organisations able to provide data.  

Though the four-day week is more appropriate for some businesses than others, the trial was successful across different industries, and can be adapted to company needs; some introduced an all-company three-day weekend, while others staggered a reduced workforce over five days. One restaurant calculated the reduced hours over an entire year, implementing longer opening times in the summer, and shorter in winter.  

We think these results are interesting and thought-provoking. Of course what works for one person won’t always work for another, and we are big believers in working to create personalised and individual working patterns where possible. But considering how employees can work smarter rather than longer is a great piece of the puzzle. 

By Miriam Shovel

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