Study heralds major breakthrough for move to four-day week

The four-day working week looks set to gain momentum after a major study revealed that 92 per cent of firms who had moved to shorter working hours will now stick with it for good.

Some 61 companies across several sectors in the UK were involved in the trial, which ran for six months from June last year.

The research, carried out by think tank Autonomy, University of Cambridge and Boston College, showed that of the 61 companies taking part in the study 56 are continuing with the four-day week (92 per cent), with 18 confirming the policy is a permanent change.

Some of the most extensive benefits of shorter working hours were found in employees’ well-being. ‘Before and after’ data shows that 39 per cent of employees were less stressed, and 71 per cent had reduced levels of burnout at the end of the trial. Likewise, levels of anxiety, fatigue and sleep issues decreased, while mental and physical health both improved.

Measures of work-life balance also improved across the trial period. Employees also found it easier to balance their work with both family and social commitments – for 54 per cent, it was easier to balance work with household jobs – and employees were also more satisfied with their household finances, relationships and how their time was being managed.

Other key business metrics also showed signs of positive effects from shorter working hours. Companies’ revenue, for instance, stayed broadly the same over the trial period, rising by 1.4 per cent on average, weighted by company size, across respondent organisations. When compared to a similar period from previous years, organisations reported revenue increases of 35 per cent on average – which indicates healthy growth during this period of working time reduction.

The number of staff leaving participating companies decreased significantly, dropping by 57 per cent over the trial period. For many, the positive effects of a four-day week were worth more than their weight in money. 15 per cent of employees said that no amount of money would induce them to accept a five-day schedule over the four-day week to which they were now accustomed.

Joe Ryle, director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, said: “This is a major breakthrough moment for the movement towards a four-day working week.

“Across a wide variety of different sectors of the economy, these incredible results show that the four-day week with no loss of pay really works.

“Surely the time has now come to begin rolling it out across the country.”

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