The Success Of The 4 Day Week

Mar 6, 2023

Topic Of The Month – The Success Of The 4 Day Week

This month saw the release of the latest UK results from the international 4 day work week pilot programme. As you may well have seen from the headlines, the clear overall story is one of success, with the majority of companies taking part planning to continue with the new working pattern. Over 90% of those involved have extended the four day week, including a quarter who have made the arrangements permanent.

Benefits reported included the mental and physical wellbeing of staff being significantly improved:

65% fewer sick days
39% reported feeling less stressed
71% reported reduced levels of burnout.
There was also improved retention, with a 57% reduction in those thinking of leaving the company.

Meanwhile business productivity in nearly every case has been either maintained or improved, with revenue rising by an average of 1.4% over the six month period.

Commenting on the results, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, chief innovation officer at ManpowerGroup and professor of business psychology at Columbia University and UCL, said “The main explanation for this success is that people just work harder when you reward them with freedom and flexibility.”

There are of course some challenges to adopting this new way of working:

ensuring fairness, such as agreeing what days people don’t work (what if everyone wants Fridays?)
making sure it doesn’t lead to unsustainable pressures on the remaining days worked
what happens with part-time workers
calculation of holiday pay entitlement
organisations that contract by hour/day
It is important to note that there was no “one size fits all” – each company designed a policy tailored to its particular industry, organisational challenges, departmental structures and work culture, with a range of patterns from ‘Friday off’ models, to staggered, annualised and conditional structures. This shows the importance of taking individual circumstances into account.

Ultimately the success of this pilot, combined with the move to remote/hybrid working we have seen since the pandemic, shows that many of the alternative methods of working that would have been dismissed in the past as unworkable are actually possible with the right approach. Flexibility is now seen as highly desirable by potential employees and will be crucial for ensuring employers can continue to recruit and retain the best individuals.