Picture this: you’ve applied for a decent-sounding, decent-paying job, and your prospective employer mentions in your last interview that the company runs on a four-day workweek model. Is four days adequate to get a week’s worth of work completed?
Love it or hate it, that notion may soon become a permanent reality for some employees in the UK (and around the globe) after a UK study concludes that, out of 61 British companies that participated in a six-month, four-day workweek trial, an overwhelming majority of the businesses will continue with shorter hours thanks to less-stressed employees and a better work-life balance.
“We feel really encouraged by the results, which showed the many ways companies were turning the four-day week from a dream into a realistic policy, with multiple benefits,” said David Frayne, research associate at the University of Cambridge, who assisted with employee interviews for the trial.
“We think there is a lot here that ought to motivate other companies and industries to give it a try.”
Interestingly, the findings showed that, for the 61 companies that rolled out the 32-hour work week, revenue wasn’t affected at all. In fact, revenue grew 1.4% over the course of the trial for 23 companies, while a separate 24 companies saw revenue climb more than 34% from the same six-month period a year earlier.
And of course, not surprising was the conclusive findings around employee contentment, with a majority stating the four-day working arrangement allowed for a less stressful working environment, including 71% feeling less burned out, 39% less stressed and 48% more satisfied with their job post-trial, ultimately providing for a better work-life balance.
Fatigue was also down, with the findings showing employees were sleeping more and mental health improved. There was also a decrease in the likelihood of employees quitting, down 57% compared with the same period a year earlier, as well as “sickies”, which were also down — a staggering 65% from a year ago, according to the findings.
The four-day workweek trial looked different for the companies involved, too — some companies worked one less workday a week, while others opted for longer hours in parts of the year and shorter hours the rest of the time to make up an average of 32 hours per week.
But overall, 92% of the companies involved said that they would continue with the four-day workweek, which is a positive sign for future industries and workplaces globally, in particular continuing on from the efforts that many companies made during the Covid pandemic in aid of a healthier work-life balance and greater working flexibility.
However, on the opposite side of the spectrum, Time recently reported that some companies in the US that might have once been the kind, understanding employers are now reverting back to old ways, doubling down on their employee’s work ethic and rescinding flexibility offerings that may have once existed throughout the pandemic.
“Companies were sending their white-collar workers money to buy desks and chairs for their work-from-home offices, and gift baskets to buoy their spirits; and jettisoning tough performance reviews for more “empathetic” evaluations,” the article wrote.
“That, though, was just a pandemic blip. It’s not just the spate of layoffs—including more than 100,000 in the tech industry alone in 2023—that have left professional workers reeling. Even people who still have jobs may notice that their employer is no longer the same empathetic, understanding boss that they bonded with within the first two years of the pandemic.”
As the United States — and the world — brace for a recession, companies are battening down the hatches in anticipation of the hard times ahead. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Facebook employees their performances would be monitored more closely; Alphabet’s CEO Sundar Pichai reportedly urged employees to work with “greater urgency, sharper focus, and more hunger”; and Twitter owner Elon Musk advised employees who didn’t want to work long hours at high intensity to quit.
So, as we face tough times ahead, is now the right time to introduce a four-day workweek? As an employer, would you be open to trialling a shorter workweek? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.