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Four-day week continued by most trial participants

100% of surveyed participants said that a four-day week had made a positive impact -

The largest global trial of the four-day work week has been deemed a success, as 89% of participating companies have continued adopting the practice a year on, research has showed.

In 2022, 61 UK-based organisations participated in a six-month trial of the four-day work week.

A year on from the end of the trial, 89% of the original participants still operate the policy, with 51% reporting they have made the four-day week permanent.

A follow-up survey, which 28 of the organisations agreed to participate in, found that 100% of managers and CEOs said the four-day week had a positive or very positive impact on their employees.

Of those surveyed, 82% reported a positive impact on staff wellbeing; 50% said it reduced staff turnover and 32% said that it improved recruitment.

Read more: Four-day week trial hailed a success for businesses and workers

Henry Stewarts, founder of workplace consultancy Happy, which was a participant in the original trial, said that the organisation had made the four-day work week permanent for employees, who work 32 hours a week at full pay.

Stewarts told HR magazine: “We originally trialled the four-day week in August 2019. Though the majority said they got as much done as before, some people felt they didn’t.”

“So, when we got involved in the UK pilot [in 2022], we made sure that we got everybody involved. We also did our 'productivity blitz', which has three key elements: focus, how to spend less time in meetings and tackling email overload.

“At the end, everybody felt they were as productive as they had been before.

“Our customer satisfaction has gone up, and our sales went up by 15% with no increase in staff. It is a win-win.”

Stewarts added that none of Happy’s 22 staff had left in the 20 months since the pilot.

Trio Media also took part in the 2022 trial.

It had nine employees at the time; it now has 19 who continue to work 30 to 32 hours per week. 

CEO Claire Daniels told HR magazine that how they manage the policy has adapted since the trial.

She said: “During the trial with only nine of us, it was easy to manage and give everyone the time management tools to make the four-day week work.

“As we've grown and adapted, we now see the fifth day as an on-call day.

“As it's still a business day that employees are getting paid for, we expect them to be available if there is anything urgent that needs handling.”

Read more: Legal pitfalls of the four-day working week

Charlie Thompson, employment partner at Stewarts, said that the four-day work week could put pressure on employees to deliver 100% of their output in 80% of the time.

He told HR magazine: “The implication is, if employees cannot do that, they will either face the prospect of dismissal for poor performance or they will have to work on their extra day off to keep on top of their workload.

“Unless employers give their staff the resources and support to deliver, this change may not be helpful for employees.”

Thompson noted that those working in industries where employees are already at risk of long hours, heavy workload and burnout might currently struggle to complete their work in five days; introducing a four-day week would exacerbate this.

He added: “Without proper support, those employees will continue to work excessively, even if the official policy of the employer becomes a four-day week.

“Employers can talk a good game on work/life balance and organisational culture by referring to a four-day week, but in reality there will still be people working round the clock just to keep on top of their workload.”

Autonomy, the University of Salford, the University of Cambridge and Boston College gathered data for Making it Stick: The UK four-day week pilot a year on report in November and December 2023. It was released on 21 February 2024.