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In simple terms: the summary of the UK's four-day working week trial

What was it?

A trial was conducted in the UK to test the feasibility and benefits of a four-day working week. It was carried out by a group of companies and involved around 2,900 employees across different industries and sectors.

Read the full results here:

For ease, here’s our simple summary (last updated March 2023) The results in a nutshell

The trial found that:

  • Almost every company (92%) that took part has decided to continue with the four-day week after the pilot

  • The vast majority of companies said that business performance and productivity was maintained

  • Over the six-month trial period, stress and burnout for employees both significantly declined with 71% of employees reporting lower levels of burnout

  • There have been similar trials elsewhere in the world showing similar results

Top 3 takeaways

  • The results suggest a four-day workweek can lead to improved productivity, job satisfaction, work-life balance, and employee wellbeing

  • It can also help businesses reduce costs and attract and retain talented employees

  • The trial shows that a four-day workweek is a viable and beneficial option for businesses to consider

Considerations for leaders

Whilst many of us may be getting excited about the prospect of our leadership teams embracing a trial themselves, there are a few considerations…

  • The trial was conducted on a relatively small scale, and the sample size may not be representative of the wider workforce in the UK

  • The trial was voluntary, meaning that the employees who participated may have been more motivated and productive than those who did not. They may have known it ‘could’ work for them

  • For some industries or sectors, a four-day workweek is not feasible or practical, such as those that require round-the-clock operations or those that rely on face-to-face interactions with clients or customers

  • Leaders must consider the unique circumstances and needs of each business before implementing a four-day workweek

  • Lastly, some people may be sceptical of the financial viability of a four-day workweek for businesses, as it may lead to reduced revenue or increased labour costs

Let’s be blunt…

Be under no illusion, your staff will start to look inwards now, and expect their leadership teams to at least review the possibility that their working life could radically change for the better. That’s not an unreasonable expectation.

Also, expect them to leave if your competitors prove that a four-day week in your industry is possible before you do.

Three things you might have missed when skimming the full results:

  • The trial was not limited to one industry or sector. The trial involved a diverse range of companies across different industries and sectors, including manufacturing, healthcare, and technology

  • The trial involved a variety of different working arrangements, including compressed workweeks, staggered work schedules, and reduced hours. This suggests that there may be flexibility in how a four-day workweek is implemented and that businesses may be able to tailor it to their specific needs

  • The trial included employees across different roles and levels, from entry-level positions to senior management.

What’s happening elsewhere in the world? Employees in Belgium have gained the right to work a full week in four days without any salary deduction. They can choose between working four or five days per week.

After a 18-month pilot in New Zealand, Unilever has decided to extend its four-day week experiment to its Australian operations. The pilot showed revenue growth, increased staff engagement, and a 34% reduction in absenteeism. They are undeniable business benefits.

Iceland conducted a four-day working week trial between 2015 and 2019 and discovered that the health and work-life balance of the 2,500 participating employees improved significantly.

According to a 2019 YouGov America poll of 36,000 Americans, two-thirds of the respondents preferred a four-day work week, regardless of whether it required longer working hours on those days.

Links to further reading: The full results

What next?

Looking to build future skills in your team? From modern leadership and team performance, to presenting online and having difficult conversations – we are leading the agenda and ready to bring our expert coaches and industry experts into your changing world.


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