UK and U.S. Studies Suggest Overwhelming Success of 4-Day Work Week
March 3, 2023
By Kevin Marrs, courtesy of SBAM approved partner, ASE
Just as companies have adapted to remote work, a new development in workplace flexibility may be on the horizon: the four-day work week. In fact, two recent studies have shown that this work arrangement could offer significant benefits for both employers and employees.
A trial of a four-day workweek in Britain, the world’s largest, revealed that an overwhelming majority of the 61 companies that participated will continue with the shorter hours, citing better work-life balance and less stress among employees. The University of Cambridge, Boston College, Autonomy, and 4 Day Week Global conducted the research. The trial aimed to see how companies from industries spanning marketing to finance to nonprofits and their 2,900 workers would respond to reduced work hours while pay stayed the same.
The results showed that employees experienced 71% less burnout, 39% less stress, and 48% more job satisfaction than before the trial. Of the workers, 60% said it was easier to balance work and responsibilities at home, while 73% reported increased satisfaction with their lives.
Fatigue was down, people were sleeping more, and mental health improved, the findings show. David Frayne, research associate at University of Cambridge, who helped lead the team conducting employee interviews for the trial, said the results showed the many ways companies were turning the four-day week from a dream into a realistic policy with multiple benefits. The findings reveal that the implementation of a shorter workweek – whether by reducing the number of workdays in a week or by working longer hours during certain periods and shorter hours for the remainder of the time to achieve an average 32-hour week – did not have any impact on the revenue of the companies.
In a separate but related study in the U.S. and Ireland, none of the 900 employees from 33 businesses who participated in a trial of a four-day workweek have plans to revert back to a five-day model. The six-month pilot, led again by the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global, took place between April and October in collaboration with researchers from Cambridge University, Boston College, and University College Dublin. This study operated on a 100-80-100 model, meaning that workers received 100% of their pay for working 80% of their normal hours, while maintaining 100% productivity. The study found that workers rated the experience highly, with a score of 9.1 out of 10, and an overwhelming 97% said they want to continue with the condensed schedule. The extra day off was highly appreciated by employees, leading to increased job satisfaction and a better work-life balance.
The concept of a 40-hour workweek originated in the early 20th century as a result of labor movements and government regulations. Before this, it was common for workers to work much longer hours. The first significant step towards a shorter workweek was the Adamson Act of 1916, which established an eight-hour workday and mandated overtime pay for railroad workers in the United States. The 40-hour workweek became more widespread during the Great Depression as a way to create more jobs by spreading work hours among more workers.
Compressed workweeks are not new, but what may be unique in these two studies is that unlike a traditional 4/10 compressed workweek where an employee works four 10-hour days, these studies simply reduced the workweek and kept the pay intact.
A four-day workweek may not be suitable for all industries or job types. Some jobs require a certain level of availability or responsiveness that may not be possible with a shorter workweek. Additionally, some companies may find it difficult to maintain consistent coverage or productivity levels with fewer workdays.
These studies show that the four-day workweek can be a realistic policy with multiple benefits. ASE members can share their workplace flexibility practices later this year when ASE conducts its Workplace Flexibility Survey.