With the results now in from the largest-ever study on a four-day work week, the benefits of a shorter week are clear, with advantages for both employers and employees. It’s looking promising that the combination of a shorter work week with a hybrid schedule could soon be a dystopian reality for many UK employees.
In this article, we explain everything you need to know about the four-day week as well as share resources like our handy compressed hours calculator.
What is a four-day workweek?
A four-day workweek is an arrangement for employees to work a compressed schedule of four days instead of the typical five-day week. This arrangement allows employees to benefit from three days off each week, while, in theory, companies can maintain their normal operations and productivity outputs.
Theorists are campaigning for the change to better reflect society's needs in 2023, explaining that the five-day pattern is a relic from an earlier economic age. Supporters of the movement argue that the shorter work week has wider economic benefits as well. Joe Ryle, 4 Day Week campaign director, says "Increased leisure time means that local economies can flourish because of greater demand in the tourism and hospitality industries."
If you’re interested in seeing what a compressed week could look like for you, check out our compressed hours calculator.
The UK Four Day Work Week Study
In 2022, a team of Cambridge University social scientists held the largest study to date on the four-day workweek. 61 companies employing over 3000 staff committed to a four-day week for a minimum period of six months. And the results were astounding.
The most important statistic is that over 92% of companies who took part in the study decided to continue with the new working arrangement, highlighting that this new way of working is more than beneficial. Further positive results included 71% of employees reporting far lower levels of “burnout”, and 39% saying they felt less stressed than when the trial began. These results are in line with flexible working benefits where employers and employees feel happier.
Interestingly, revenue actually managed to increase slightly, by 1.4%, proving that productivity is not affected by the shorter working week. Although it must be noted that revenue figures were only provided by twenty-three of the companies that took part.
Clearly, the benefits speak for themselves when it comes to the four-day week, but just in case you needed further persuading, then let's dive into a bit more detail and examine the pros and cons of the four-day week.
Pros of a Four-Day WorkWeek
Increased Job Satisfaction
In the UK study, employees reported feeling more satisfied with their jobs when working a four-day workweek. This suggests that improving the work-life balance of employees can increase job satisfaction and morale in the workplace.
Other benefits associated with this type of arrangement include improved productivity and reduced stress levels due to fewer hours worked per week, as well as higher employee engagement due to increased flexibility and autonomy.
Ultimately, allowing for a four-day workweek could be beneficial for both employers and employees alike by creating a healthier environment. Everyone is able to get their necessary tasks completed while still having enough time outside of work to pursue other interests or recharge during weekends.
Like hybrid work, a four-day workweek can also be a great recruiting tool for your organisation. It's a unique selling point that helps you stand out from other organisations in the same field, making it more attractive to potential candidates that may otherwise have overlooked your business.
Also, the extra money being saved on operation costs could be reinvested back into a recruitment drive or perhaps to reward employees with better salaries or benefits.
Fewer Sick Days
A four-day workweek can reduce the number of sick days taken due to overwork. The Cambridge study reported a 65% reduction in sick days, and a 57% fall in the number of staff leaving participating companies, compared to the same period the previous year.
This is beneficial for both employers and employees as it means less disruption at work and higher productivity levels overall. Additionally, workers may feel healthier when they're able to spend more time outside of the office on their days off, leading to happier staff members less likely to need a sick day.
Improved work-life balance
A four-day schedule gives employees an extra day off each week, which can be used for leisure activities or family time. This can lead to improved morale and increased productivity. The UK trial found that most people preferred to use their extra day off for 'life admin' tasks such as doctor appointments or house cleaning.
Getting these jobs out of the way allowed them to enjoy their Saturday and Sunday to the max, getting in enough leisure time to feel refreshed and recharged ready for the next week.
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer for how to increase productivity, research suggests that a four-day week can make a big impact.
A study conducted by the University of Kent in the UK found that employees experienced an increase in productivity when their working hours were reduced from five days a week to four. This was likely due to fewer distractions and improved focus on tasks during the shorter workweek.
It's also worth noting that having an extra day off each week has been linked to increased job satisfaction, which could further contribute to higher levels of motivation and productivity among workers.
Cons of a Four Day Week
Perceived Increased Workload
A four-day workweek can be beneficial in some ways, but it also comes with its share of drawbacks. One potential issue is increased workload: when employees are asked to do the same amount of work in fewer hours, they may feel pressured to complete tasks faster.
This can lead to higher levels of stress and fatigue as workers strive to meet deadlines or finish projects on time. Additionally, if there isn’t enough staff available during a shortened week, other employees might have to take up additional responsibilities which could further add to their workloads.
Ultimately, this could possibly result in decreased productivity and morale among the workforce, although the companies included in the trial did not find this.
Possible Extra Costs
A four-day workweek can be beneficial for both employers and employees, but there are some potential extra costs to consider. In order to make a shorter week feasible, depending on the industry, like hospitality for example, some companies might need to hire additional staff or outsource certain tasks that would otherwise be done by existing employees.
Finally, depending on how a four-day workweek is structured, perhaps introducing hybrid working or fully remote, companies could face increased expenses. These costs could be related to technology upgrades or other necessary investments such as improved office space management and better communication tools.
Customer Service Difficulties
A four-day workweek can present some challenges in terms of customer service. With fewer days to take care of customers’ needs, employers may struggle to provide timely responses and assistance. This could lead to a decrease in customer satisfaction, which could impact the organisation's reputation which in this day and age, could be catastrophic.
To combat this issue, employers should consider hiring additional staff or training existing employees on how to manage customer inquiries more efficiently when working with a reduced schedule. Additionally, organisations should strive for transparency by communicating any changes in their operating hours upfront so that clients are aware of potential delays in response times and can plan accordingly.
If your company is thinking about making the switch to a four-day workweek then it will want to get organised otherwise there could be numerous logistical issues that arise such as the runnings of any companies that need a seven-day presence with customers.
Luckily, if your company is already using a hybrid work model then it should be easier to adapt, as employees will be used to organising work and meetings on different schedules and in different locations, especially with hybrid scheduling tools that can help.
Or a possible solution to ease any logistical headaches would be to roll out a four-day workweek on a department-by-department basis. This helps ease pressure on the organisation and you can make sure to get the foundations correct before rolling out the new schedule company-wide. There are simple things you can think about before the roll though, for instance, how to make meetings more efficient or even how you could eliminate unnecessary meetings. Take time to prepare fo the shift.
The UK Four Day Week study was able to prove that the benefits of a shorter week far outweigh any possible cons. Does the question now become when it will become the norm instead of the outlier?
Graham Joyce is co-founder of DuoMe, a flexible working advocate and a frequent panellist/commentator on the issues of flexibility or hybrid working.