A New Study Found That Four-day Workweeks Make Employees Happier And Boost Revenue
Four-day weeks make workers happier and businesses richer, according to the world’s largest trial on the concept.
Knocking 20 percent off work hours meant employees took 65 percent fewer sick days and 57 percent fewer staff quit.
Staff working four-day weeks were on average 71 percent less “burnt-out” and 39 percent less stressed versus how they felt at the start of the six-month trial.
Company revenue even increased, though only by 1.4 percent on average.
Of the 61 UK companies that took part in University of Cambridge’s pilot program, 92 percent said they plan to keep the four-day week.
A total of 18 companies announced the change was permanent.
Most employees spent their extra time off doing “life admin,” such as shopping and chores, allowing them to take a proper break for leisure activities on Saturday and Sunday.
This led to one employee explaining their “Sunday dread” disappeared.
Every participant reported doing more of what they loved – from sport, to cooking, to music production and volunteering.
Some even used the time to get professional qualifications.
Parents saved childcare costs with a midweek day off or had extra time to themselves if their kids were older.
University of Cambridge professor Brendan Burchell, who led the research organized by the UK’s 4 Day Week Campaign, said: “Before the trial, many questioned whether we would see an increase in productivity to offset the reduction in working time – but this is exactly what we found.
“Many employees were very keen to find efficiency gains themselves.
“Long meetings with too many people were cut short or ditched completely.
“Workers were much less inclined to kill time, and actively sought out technologies that improved their productivity.
“Almost everyone we interviewed described being overwhelmed with questions from other organizations in their industry that are interested in following suit.
“When we ask employers, a lot of them are convinced the four-day week is going to happen.
“It has been uplifting for me personally, just talking to so many upbeat people over the last six months. A four-day week means a better working life and family life for so many people.”
Across the UK 2,900 employees ditched a day of work – from online retailers to financial service providers, to animation studies and a local fish-and-chip shop.
Consultancy, housing, IT, skincare, recruitment, hospitality, marketing and healthcare were among the other industries included.
Employees were surveyed throughout the trial.
Self-reported levels of anxiety and fatigue decreased across staff rooms, while mental and physical health improved.
Respondents announced they found it easier to balance work with family and social commitments – 60 percent felt they were more able to combine paid work with care responsibilities, and 62 said their social lives were more balanced.
Employees felt more positive about working culture and more valued by employers – they corralled each other to make the four-day week a success.
Joe Ryle, Director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, said the results were a major breakthrough for the idea of shorter working weeks.
“Across a wide variety of different sectors of the economy, these incredible results show that the four-day week actually works.”
In 2014, Mexico’s wealthiest man, Carlos Slim Helu, once advocated for shorter work week to 3-days and 11-hour work days in order for the average worker to spend time with friends and family, according to CNN Business.
“Low interest rates are a big opportunity for investment. But the issue is that this money should go to the real economy, not the financial economy,” Slim said.
Slim stated that it would help businesses to financially succeed, according to CNN Business.
“It is mainly going to the financial economy. If we take part of it to the real economy and develop infrastructure and other investments, we will have construction, employment and better salaries,” he said.
A CEO of a consultancy organization involved in the trial said it would be bizarre to go back to two days off a week.
They said: “When you realize that day has allowed you to be relaxed and rested, and ready to absolutely go for it on those other four days, you start to realize that to go back to working on a Friday would feel really wrong – stupid actually.”
Companies either stopped completely for a three-day weekend or staggered a reduced workforce over a week.
One restaurant calculated their 32-hour week over a year and created long opening times in the summer and far shorter ones during winter.
Some traded the days off for fewer holiday days or made staff agree they could be called in at short notice, or only allowed them to keep the extra day off if their performance targets were met.
In order to maintain performance targets meetings were set up with clearer agendas, companies introduced interruption-free “focus periods,” and email etiquette was reformed to reduce long chains and sky-high inboxes.
Production processes were re-analyzed and end-of-day task lists were created for effective handovers and a headstart the next day.
Cambridge Ph.D. candidate Niamh Bridson Hubbard said: “It was common for employees to describe a significant reduction in stress.
“Many described being able to switch off or breathe more easily at home. One person told us how their ‘Sunday dread’ had disappeared.”
Unlike other four-day week studies Cambridge University conducted extensive interviews with employees and CEOs before, during and after the trial.
Dr. David Frayne, from Cambridge’s Department of Sociology, said: “The method of this pilot allowed our researchers to go beyond surveys and look in detail at how the companies were making it work on the ground.”
The CEO of a non-profit organization that took part in the trial said: “I hated the pandemic, but it’s made us see each other much more in the round, and it’s made us all realize the importance of having a healthy head, and that family matters.”
Senior managers joined the pilot thinking the four-day week would attract talent in the post-COVID-19 job market.
Some felt it was an appealing alternative to unlimited homeworking, which they felt risked company culture.
Others watched staff suffer health problems and bereavement during the pandemic and experienced an increased moral responsibility toward employees.
In several companies, draining work meant long hours were being discussed well before COVID-19.
Video game studio CEOs pointed to high-profile examples of “crunch and burnout” in their industry, during the final steps of creating a game.
Researchers were surprised to find no organization interviewed claimed they were taking part because technology reduced their need for human labor.
Two of the only downfalls were observed in a large company where staff feared workloads intensifying, and a creative firm was unhappy with “focus time” barring unstructured office chat that often sparks ideas.
The study collaborated with Boston College, America, and the non-profit group 4-Day Week Global.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker.