The four-day week enjoyed by UK employers in the world’s biggest trial

  • Nine out of 10 trial companies stick to the four-day week
  • Companies say employees work more in less time
  • The four-day week is gaining popularity, but some companies are still reluctant

LONDON, Feb 21 (Reuters) – Dozens of British employers trialling a four-day working week have mostly decided to stick with it after a pilot hailed as a breakthrough by campaigners for better work-life balance and privacy.

Employees at 61 companies across Britain worked an average of 34 hours over four days between June and December 2022, while earning their current wages. Among these, 56 companies, or 92%, have chosen to continue in this way, including 18 on a permanent basis.

The trial is the largest in the world, according to Autonomy, a UK-based research organization which published the report alongside a group of academics and with support from New Zealand-based group 4 Day Week Global.

While the results may be interesting for companies looking for talent, other surveys show that very few other UK employers are planning a four-day week soon.

The Autonomy trial covered 2,900 total employees in different industries, ranging from financial firm Stellar Asset Management to digital manufacturer Rivelin Robotics and a fish and chip shop in the coastal town of Wells-next-the-sea.

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The majority agreed that productivity had been maintained.

Staff said their well-being and work-life balance had improved, while data showed employees were much less likely to leave their jobs due to the four-day week policy.

“This is a watershed moment for the movement toward a four-day work week,” 4-Day Week campaign manager Joe Ryle said in a statement.


Paul Oliver, chief operating officer at Citizens Advice Gateshead, said job retention and recruitment had improved and levels of illness had fallen during the trial.

“Staff are doing more work in less time,” he said.

For some employees, the extra day off was more important than pay: 15% said no amount of money would entice them to go back to a five-day week. Some staff had Wednesdays off, while others had a three-day weekend policy.

Employers in marketing and advertising, professional services and charity were the most represented in the trial. Some 66% of participants had 25 or fewer employees, while 22% had 50 or more employees. 11% were non-profit.

The essay reflects growing scrutiny of how people work, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, when furlough schemes and mandatory work-from-home periods left many wondering. if they had to sit in an office five days a week.

In recent years, some major global companies have tested a four-day approach and also reported positive results. Microsoft (MSFT.O) piloted it in Japan for a month in 2019 while consumer goods giant Unilever (ULVR.L) conducted a year-long trial in New Zealand in 2020.

However, British businesses as a whole do not seem enthusiastic.

When the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), representing HR professionals, surveyed members last year, it found that very few employers expected to move to a four-day week during of the next three years.

Two-thirds expected no change over the next decade.

However, evidence that it has helped retain staff could prove powerful for companies that have struggled to recruit workers since the pandemic. Britain has the added complication of leaving the European Union.

“That should give us a competitive advantage,” a senior insurance company executive involved in the lawsuit said of the evidence of worker retention after a four-day week.

Reporting by Sarah Young; additional reporting by David Milliken Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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