The world’s largest pilot programme for the four-day workweek took place in the UK between June and December 2022. A total of 61 companies nationwide, with around 2900 workers, participated in the trial of a 32-hour, four-day workweek with no loss of pay. The results are in, and employers are thrilled with the four-day workweek.
Of the 61 companies that took part, 56 have chosen to extend the four-day workweek trial, of which 18 have made it permanent business practice. The employers are clearly happy with the results; on average they saw stable revenue, rising on average by 1.4% (weighted by company size), despite the reduction of hours worked. Staff retention has also benefited greatly, with the number of staff leaving participating companies down by a whopping 57% over the trial period.
But how do their employees feel?
To find out the real impact of the four-day workweek on employees, the global job search platform Talent.com undertook research on 1,325 employees. They wanted to find out employees’ expectations of a four-day workweek, and what companies might like to consider ahead of any potential implementation.
On the whole, Talent.com’s survey respondents saw the positive benefits of a four-day workweek, with the majority (82%) believing that it would enable them to have a better work-life balance. Of the top benefits cited, 55% believe it would lead to improved well-being overall, with 48% saying that it would result in reduced stress – two factors that are important to business continuity, as well as the individual themselves.
Respondents indicated that an additional day outside work would improve their well-being, by enabling them to have more time for leisure activities and rest (71%). One-third also stated that having more time for childcare or family caregiving would be beneficial to them. This suggests that while reducing working hours may seem counterintuitive to business productivity, employers can benefit the organization as a whole by listening to what employees need to function better and taking a more nuanced approach to the issue.
Of course, once a four-day workweek is rolled out in a company, it would be very hard to revert back to five. Impact on productivity and output is one thing, but employee expectations of pay and specific timetables must also be taken into account.
Of the employees asked, 64% said they would be unwilling to take a pay cut to work a four-day week. Consequently, companies considering implementing any new timetable should not view it as a cost-cutting measure. Talent.com also found that 76% of workers still expect their yearly salary to increase, so as to not retroactively prorate the reduction of hours in line with current pay.
The research also found that any specifics of any four-day workweek definition should be ironed out before implementation. Over half the respondents (54%) believe that a four-day week should consist of a minimum of 8.25 hours per day, whilst a third (33%) would expect to work 36 hours – averaging 9 hours per day. Nearly 1 in 7 respondents stated that 10 hours per day would be reasonable. For the National 4 Day Work Week trial, a 32-hour week was implemented.
Expectations of specific timetables vary hugely. Therefore before any business rolls out a new timetable, it’s important to set expectations. They should look towards balancing the benefits of a four-day work week, and the number of hours required to carry out business output, within reasonable employee expectations.
A modern solution for a modern problem?
The workplace has undergone a significant upheaval in recent years, not least the normalisation of remote working and the benefits of technological developments that have optimised work processes. But with this, there has also come a great deal of disruption, to which both businesses and employees have had to adapt. With economic uncertainty on the horizon, businesses that have altered so much will likely need to adjust their working practice further.
We are now living and working, amidst a time of economic turbulence, experiencing a national mental health crisis in a post-pandemic world. Our research demonstrates that the UK workforce would be far better able to navigate this crisis if a four-day workweek were implemented, as a collective solution to a number of these major challenges.
With a simple option so readily available, should all companies – no matter their size – consider the positive impact a four-day week would have on business? 82% believe their work-life balance would improve within a four-day week, and around one in two people believe it would reduce stress and improve well-being. In fact, employees would be willing to work far longer hours, to enable this extra day of leisure and rest, which could also be highly beneficial for the economy and for working parents too.
Noura Dadzie is the senior vice president of the global search platform, Talent.com.