4-Day Week Global, a not-for-profit community, released the results of The UK’s Four-Day Week Pilot, providing an analysis of the organizational and employee outcomes of a four-day work week. Nearly 3,000 workers at 61 companies in diverse industries participated in the six-month study. These companies, located in the UK, were each required to make a meaningful reduction in employees’ working time by creating and deploying a policy that is suited to their business needs, industry and work culture – while maintaining 100% of pay.
The key findings of the pilot included data showing that companies that adopted a four-day week experienced decreased absenteeism (65%) and reduced employee turnover (57%), while employees benefited from improved well-being, including reduced stress (39%) and levels of burnout (71%). These companies also maintained or even increased revenue (by 1.4%), despite the significant reduction in work hours.
An insight revealed on page 56 of the report underscores the scope of change these companies underwent due to their participation in the pilot: “Managers and staff alike repeatedly praised the value of the four-day week as a catalyst for organizational change.”
“When we say, ‘the four-day work week,’ that’s a pretty simplified definition,” said Dr. Lauren Park, organizational psychologist and human resources (HR) research scientist on the SAP SuccessFactors Growth and Insights team. “There is a lot of flexibility in how this is practiced and there are a lot of nuanced differences that organizations can benefit from. It doesn’t have to look the same for every organization, and it shouldn’t.”
Streamlining Processes for a Better Employee Experience
The companies participating in the pilot implemented a reduction in work hours using a variety of methods; Fridays off, staggered work schedules, annualized time off, performance-based time off, decentralized schedules at the department level and others.
In addition, many of these companies evaluated the concept and structure of their processes to find efficiencies alongside having a four-day work week. “For a lot of these organizations, this switch to a four-day work week also came with an overhaul of how work gets done,” Park said. “In order to realize the best outcomes of this effort, organizations can’t just say, ‘Okay, we’re going to expect you to get the same amount of work done in four days as you would in five days,’ but then not change anything about that work.”
Many companies reformed standard practices for meetings and emails to be more streamlined and effective. They also reorganized calendars and introduced “focus periods” for uninterrupted concentration. Some companies made process improvements for manufacturing and operations, automated workflows and implemented project management software. As a result, the employee experience improved through better use of time, better scheduling and more personal autonomy.
Companies benefit most from a four-day work week when they approach the project as an opportunity to really think about what work looks like for them. “It’s a way for organizations to be more impactful with the workforce that they have today,” Park said. “When you’re shortening the work week, employees and organizations are forced to rethink: What work is top priority? What work is most strategically important? What’s a good use of my time? Organizations and people managers should provide guidance to employees in making these decisions, but employees’ sense of empowerment to make these decisions for themselves can bring them a sense of purpose and renew their motivation and commitment.”
Productivity Where It Matters
Of the 61 companies that participated in the pilot, 56 indicated they will continue with the four-day week and 18 companies have made it permanent. Park believes more data is needed, although she is “cautiously optimistic” that the four-day work week will go mainstream.
“If it’s done right, I think both employees and organizations are going to benefit a lot,” she said, “because you’ll have employees with better work-life balance, less absenteeism, less presenteeism and organizations seeing productivity where it matters.”