Nearly 3,000 employees took part in the pilot, organized by advocacy group 4 Day Week Global, in conjunction with research group Autonomy and researchers from Boston College and the University of Cambridge.
Companies that participated could adopt different methods to “significantly” shorten their employees’ working weeks – from giving them one day off a week to reducing their working days in a year to 32 hours a week by average – but had to ensure that employees always received 100% of their salary.
At the end of the experiment, employees reported a range of benefits related to their sleep, stress levels, personal life and mental health, according to results released Tuesday. Business revenue “remained broadly the same” during the six-month trial, but grew by 35% on average compared to a similar period in previous years. Resignations have decreased.
Of the 61 companies that took part in the trial, 56 said they would continue to implement four-day work weeks after the pilot ended, 18 of which said the shift would be permanent. Two companies are extending the trial. Only three companies did not plan to continue any element of the four-day working week.
The findings are likely to shine a new light on shorter workweeks as a possible solution to high levels of employee burnout and the ‘big quit’ phenomenon exacerbated by the pandemic, amid a global movement calling on companies ditch the office, 9-to-5, five-day workweek, and embrace more flexible work practices instead.
The world’s largest four-day working week pilot has just launched in the UK
Increased revenue, improved employee well-being
The findings of the UK trial build on the results of an earlier, smaller pilot published in November and also coordinated by 4 Day Week Global. This experience, which involved around 30 companies and 1,000 employees in several countries, has made it possible to increase revenues, reduce absenteeism and resignations and improve employee well-being. None of the participating companies planned to return to five-day work weeks after the pilot project ended.
The 4 Day Week Global group is coordinating these pilot programs as part of its global campaign to encourage more companies to switch from the standard 40-hour work week to a 32-hour model for the same pay and benefits.
The UK pilot program involved twice as many companies and employees as the previous pilot project and is the largest of its kind. The benefits for participants have extended beyond the office and into employees’ personal lives.
Those who participated were less likely to say they felt they didn’t have enough time in the week to care for children, grandchildren or the elderly in their lives. The time spent by men caring for children has increased by more than double that of women, showing the positive effects of a shorter working week on gender equality – although it does not there was no change in the share of household chores that men and women reported doing.
A majority of employees who experienced the four-day work week did not want to return to it: at the end of the pilot project, they were asked how much money they should receive from their next employer to return to a five-day week days . Almost a third said they would need a 26-50% raise and 8% said they would like a 50% higher salary.
Four-day weeks and the freedom to roam anywhere: Companies are (again) rewriting the future of work
A better work-life balance is why Michelle, a 49-year-old media executive who asked to be identified by her first name so she could speak candidly about her past job, insisted on a four-day workweek when she applied to her home. current position. After working three- and then four-day weeks when she returned from maternity leave in 2015, she noticed a “clear” difference when she returned to five-day weeks for another company during the pandemic.
“Suddenly it felt like my whole life was about work,” she says. She came close to burnout, and when her contract with this company ended, she made it clear to potential employers that she wanted to work four days a week. In her current position, she has Fridays off and is paid 80% of what she would earn if she worked five days.
“I feel like I can breathe,” she said. “I feel like I’m not constantly behind with my family life and feel guilty and like to crush all the jobs and errands and stuff in two days.”
The extra free time is especially helpful for childcare, she says. She is a co-parent of her 9-year-old autistic son. In her previous job, when she worked three or four days a week, the extra time “meant I could pick him up from school, we could spend more time together,” she says. “It makes a huge difference for parents.”
A four-day work week in Maryland? Maybe. Bill would set up a pilot program.
Although the four-day workweek model has gained traction, it is still not common practice globally, and much policy research is limited by its size. Most of the companies that took part in the UK trial were small – 66% had 25 or fewer employees – and predisposed to exploring the concept of flexible working. Ninety percent of participating employees were white and 68 percent had at least an undergraduate degree.
Opponents of the four-day working week say while the policy may benefit some workers, it is not feasible for many, including workers in key sectors such as childcare and healthcare , who are already facing widespread staffing shortages. Some workers prefer to work more and earn more. And some skeptics believe that employee productivity would eventually decline if the four-day work week became permanent.
Supporters of the policy point out that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and that the benefits of a shorter working week could ripple across society, reducing healthcare costs and emissions from commuting . Their ideas are becoming more mainstream. Several large-scale trials of shorter workweeks are underway around the world. In 2021, Rep. Mark Takano (D-California) introduced a bill that would cut the standard workweek from 40 to 32 hours and mandate overtime pay for work performed above that limit.
There is precedent for a large-scale change to the standard workweek: as the Washington Post has already noted, before the Great Depression, it was not uncommon for employees in the United States to work six-week days. The 40-hour workweek was first codified into US law in 1938. The argument made by groups such as 4 Day Week Global is that “we’re overdue for an update.”
Rachel Pannett contributed to this report.
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