The World’s Largest Four-Day Work Week Experiment Shows Success

The four-day work week is a fabled reconfiguration of labor that might actually be a promising way to boost revenue for businesses and worker morale.

The four-day work week is a fabled reconfiguration of labor that might actually be a promising way to boost revenue for businesses and worker morale.
Image: Carl Court (Getty Images)

The five-day work week has long been a staple of the world’s workforce, but a massive experiment testing a four-day work week in the United Kingdom, which began three months ago, is already seeing some incredibly promising results.

The labor force wants change. While the covid-19 pandemic’s stay-at-home orders have shown that many jobs can move (at least partially) to a remote configuration, the next big change could be the duration of the work week itself. In June, more than 3,300 employees across the United Kingdom began participating in a six-month experiment to test the efficacy of a four-day work week, which was organized by the nonprofit 4 Day Global. The pilot program has now reached its halfway point, and 4 Day Global is reporting overwhelmingly positive results. More specifically, 88% of surveyed participants said that the four-day work week is working well for their business.

“The organizations in the United Kingdom pilot are contributing real-time data and knowledge that are worth their weight in gold. Essentially, they are laying the foundation for the future of work by putting a four-day week into practice, across every size of business and nearly every sector, and telling us exactly what they are finding as they go, “said 4 Day Week Global CEO Joe O’Connor in a press release.

Results also include 86% of survey respondents indicating that they would be likely or extremely likely to retain the four-day work week, while a total of 46% of respondents reported some increase in productivity. Businesses also reported a relatively smooth transition from the traditional five-day work week. On a scale of 1 being “extremely challenging” to 5 being “extremely smooth,” 4 Day Week Global found that 98% of respondents rated the transition to the four-day work week a 3 or higher.

Prior to the start of the experiment, 4 Day Week Global said that this is the biggest pilot program of its kind, where, as long as workers maintain 100% of their productivity, they will also maintain 100% of their salary while working 80% of the traditional work week. The nonprofit has been collaborating on the pilot program with labor think tank Autonomy as well as researchers from Cambridge University, Boston College, and Oxford University. Companies taking part in the experiment range from fish and chips shops, to PR firms, to tech companies. While the transition to a four-day work week is certainly alluring, O’Connor recognizes that it is not a one-size-fits-all approach to a labor revolution.

“We are learning that for many it is a fairly smooth transition and for some there are some understandable hurdles – especially among those which have comparatively fixed or inflexible practices, systems, or cultures which date back well into the last century,” O’Connor said.

4 Day Week Global also reported testimonials from high-level executives from some of the companies involved in the project. CEO of Trio Media Claire Daniels said, “Productivity has remained high, with an increase in wellness for the team, along with our business performing 44% better financially.” Meanwhile, Sharon Platts, Chief People Officer at Outcomes First Group, said, “While it’s still early days, our confidence in continuing beyond the trial is growing and the impact on colleague wellbeing has been palpable.”

The four-day work week is a tantalizing concept for the working class, and one that appears to be more and more legitimate as pilot programs such as this one gather illuminating data on the concept. Microsoft flirted with a four-day work week in Japan and saw higher sales figures and levels of happiness in employees. The big hurdle moving forward will be getting buy in from enough companies and executives to make the four-day work week a permanent fixture in the world’s labor market — but results from large projects such as the one from 4 Day Week Global are only getting us closer to that end goal.

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