According to an ongoing study in the UK, the four-day workweek may be the key to success for companies and their employees. The world’s biggest four-day workweek trial included the participation of 61 British companies, some of whom now say they won’t return to the regular Monday through Friday work schedule.
The study was conducted by scientists at the University of Cambridge alongside academics from Boston College in the U.S. from June through November last year. During that time, companies ranging from restaurants to banks rated the levels of productivity and performance. At the halfway point of the trial, 46% of companies said productivity remained about the same, 34% said they saw a slight improvement and 15% reported a significant improvement.
While shaving off a day of work seemed to increase overall well-being, there was also a reported increase in the pace of work. 62% of employees said they thought their pace of work increased, 36% thought it was the same, and just 2% felt their pace of work decreased. Although many employees reported having to work faster, the study said a majority of workers didn’t believe there was a significant increase in their workloads.
Researchers also found a significant drop in the number of employees who left their positions and of the 2,900 workers observed in the study, more people reported they saw an increase in productivity, mental well-being, an increased work-life balance, and reduced levels of anxiety.
“I was wondering if it might be a lot harder for companies to make four-day weeks work, and the answer seems to be no,” lead researcher Juliet Schor, an economist and sociologist at Boston College, told the Wall Street Journal. Schor has repeatedly found that the culture and lifestyle of workers are changing and the five-day workweek has shifted. “The organisations did a great job, and they’re really happy with it,” she added.
The report indicated that of the 61 companies involved in the trial, 56 are continuing to implement it while 18 said the four-day workweek will become a permanent part of their structure.
The data comes as companies have seen a growing influx of employees “quiet quitting,” meaning they are slow to take on responsibilities and are less willing to go above and beyond in their job. A Gallup poll conducted in September found that quiet quitters accounted for at least 50% of the workforce in the United States, indicating a lot of workers are checked out.
The poll found the main cause for quiet quitting is the worldwide problem of stress and burnout. But not only did the UK report find this is less likely to happen when provided with the four-day workweek but by decreasing the workweek by one day, 70% of employees reported they had reduced levels of burnout and 40% said their sleep difficulty levels had improved.
Nearly half of the employees in the study reported an improvement in their mental health, while 37% noted an improvement in their physical health.
For those juggling work, a social life, and children, the benefits skyrocketed after 60% of employees found the reduced hours allowed them to care for their families, and men especially found they had more time to help their partners at home, although women still carry more than 50% of home life responsibilities.
Pilot tests were carried out in both the U.S. and Ireland, having reported similar results, but the UK test is the largest to date and surpassed previous studies by incorporating in-depth research.
David Frayne, a Research Associate at the University of Cambridge, told Eureka, “We feel really encouraged by the results, which showed the many ways companies were turning the four-day week from a dream into realistic policy, with multiple benefits.”